Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Grumpy old man!

I'm told my post yesterday was a "real grumpy old man's blog"! Well, let me add to my grumples (my coinage).
Further grammatical errors that have been pointed out to me include different than. No wrong again: different from.

"Having read your blog for yesterday I find off of very annoying.  I heard a newsreader on the BBC use this only last week." Quite right, Heather. So do I, as in "Get off of the sofa!" No, just "Get off the sofa!" That's all you need.  

Adding unnecessary adverbs is a common affliction, for example, repeat again. Since "repeat" means "say, or do, again", the again is redundant, unless of course something's being said three times, which is what "repeat again" really means. Similarly return back: as "return" means "come back", you don't need the "back". Get a grip!

Don't let me get started on misplaced apostrophes.... ONLY WHERE A LETTER'S BEEN LEFT OUT!

And lastly, I once proudly taught the RSA's Basic Clerical Skills to help my lower groups with their literacy. It would, for example, teach them how to write their CVs, do interviews, address envelopes and write letters. Today I received an otiose reminder from the "Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust", no less, informing me that I have an appointment booked for 21st May. I reckon my students would have failed had they produced this sort of visual abomination: different font sizes, different alignment, irregular spacing between words and paragraphs. The envelope's addressed chummily to "Michael Wenham" (no Mr or The Rev), which I wouldn't mind, were it a personal letter from someone I knew. However, and here's the worst of the errors, it starts
"Dear  Michael Wenham"
and ends
"We look forward to seeing you at your appointment.
Yours sincerely
Patient Contact Centre".

All right, I understand it's a computer-generated letter, which comes from centralised administration department. But they certainly won't see me, and neither will the computer (I hope), and in fact I don't believe either a department or a machine can ever appropriately described as "sincere". I have to say it's not the politest of computers or contact centres throughout the letter. It would be pleasant to receive something more personal and actually more respectful. I'm not that fussed about my own dignity, but it matters that hospitals (doctors, nurses, ancillary staff and administrators) treat patients with respect. So it wouldn't hurt or be beyond human wit to programme in a format which said "Dear Mr Wenham" and signed off with a name, either of someone at the clinic whom I might actually see, or of someone at the Patient Contact Centre, with a last sentence such as "We hope you are still able to keep the appointment."

As you'll know, I am a genuine fan of the National Health Service, but the John Radcliffe's creaking stegosaurus which is its administration seems to me signally in need of a rethink.


  1. A man after my heart, Michael! Just one thing. It's 'most polite', not 'politest'! Ha,ha.......

  2. Oops! Some people would have gloated!