The new Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, has continued his fight against what he considers to be sloppy syntax. He has issued advice to Civil Servants about how to frame departmental correspondence. He did the same in his previous incarnation as Education Secretary when he confused his own stylistic choices with the rules of English grammar. But, as we know, Gove’s choices must be imposed on others.
Oliver Kamm, author of Accidence Will Happen: The non-pedantic guide to English usage*, says Gove’s advice shows ‘how an intelligent, well-read minister can get away with talking nonsense where grammar is concerned’. I agree. And to ensure Gove gets the message I’ve updated a Gilbert and Sullivan song. I look forward to hearing the Lord Chancellor singing it while dressed in his ceremonial robes.
‘I am the very model of a modern day Grammarian,
I’ve information pettifogging, pedantic and stentorian,
I know the rules of English, and I quote factoids historical,
From one Lynne Truss to Neville Gwynne, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted too with matters hypercritical,
I understand infinitives, both the unsplit and divisible,
About the passive voice I’m teeming with a lot o’ views…
With many fussy facts about my literary Muse.’
‘I’m very good at deciding which word phrases need hyphenation,
I know the grammatical rules for every aberration,
In short, in matters pettifogging, pedantic and stentorian,
I am the very model of a modern day Grammarian.’
NOTE: I decided to boldly break some Govian rules (see here) when writing this piece.
*See here for my review of Kamm’s book.
UPDATE 25 June 2015. Ooooops! I confused Lynne Truss, author of punctuation guide, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (and blamed by comedian Marcus Brigstoke for inspiring 'grammar bullies' who he latter consigned to Room 101) and ex-schools minister Elizabeth Truss. I've changed 'Lizzie Truss' to 'one Lynne Truss'.
I also spelt Neville Gwynne's name wrong. I've put it right.