Should we be grateful to Gove?

Recently appointed Lord Chancellor Michael Gove provoked widespread mockery when it emerged he had issued instructions to his new civil servants at the Ministry of Justice, about his pet grammatical peeves.

While it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and have a go at Gove for his pedantry, some of his points are actually worth looking at.

Apparently, the Lord Chancellor encourages the use of active words and the present tense. So do we.

He disapproves of unnecessary capitalisation. So do we.

He warns his staff to avoid unnecessary repetition. So do we (even if this is beginning to sound a little repetitious).

Gove’s latest grammatical guidance follows his “10 golden rules”, issued when he was education secretary. His advice was focused on departmental correspondence in particular, but applies to writers in general.

In that missive, he wrote: “In letters, adjectives add little, adverbs even less”, as well as advising writers to “read it out loud – if it sounds wrong, don’t send it”.

The Lord Chancellor may have been accused of patronising his civil servants – but on this occasion, we can’t help but feel his points deserve to be listened to.

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