Lib Dems take action to clean up language

Tucked away at the end of the Agenda for Spring Conference we find this constitutional amendment:

In Article 20.1, delete ‘not less than’ and insert ‘not fewer than’ on both occasions.

What is not immediately apparent is that such grammatical errors could result in disciplinary action in future.

In an attempt to smarten up communications the party can now apply sanctions to anyone who violates good grammar in public-facing documents such as Focus leaflets and press releases. Any party member responsible for such errors will have to attend training. If they refuse, they face expulsion.

Here are some examples of the kinds of errors they have in mind.

  • Confusing ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. Hint: ‘less’ goes with a singular noun, while ‘fewer’ goes with a plural.
  • Using ‘different to’ instead of ‘different from’.
  • Misplaced or omitted apostrophes. Hint: an apostrophe usually indicates that a letter has been left out (but not always …) or the word is in the possessive form (but not always …)
  • Semi-colons at the end of bullet points; Or full stops. Or commas,
  • Two or more spaces between sentences.    This is on the insistence of the Party President.
  • Treating data or media as singular nouns.
  • Starting a sentence with ‘But’ or ‘Or’.  Or ‘And’.
  • The Heidelberg colon. This should not be used under any circumstances.

The party has not yet come to a decision about the use of the Oxford comma. It is thought that this impasse might be resolved with a creative solution similar to our policy on an independent nuclear deterrent: its use would be allowed for three weeks out of four.

This action was prompted by a poll of voters in Blue Wall seats which showed that the party could win an extra dozen MPs at the next General Election if it showed that it took good grammar seriously.  The research was commissioned by the party president ahead of the publication of his new book on political polling later this month.

Our spokesperson on Grammar in the House of Lords, Baroness Afril Polo, commented:

Its a shame that the Liberal Democrat’s might of ignored these grammer misstakes in the passed but, they/them/their is now doing something about it.

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36 Comments

  • Andrew Ducker 1st Apr '22 - 8:45am

    I was about to get very grumpy after the first paragraph, until I realised…

  • Yeovil Yokel 1st Apr '22 - 8:57am

    I’m all for this, today of all days.

  • Neil Fawcett 1st Apr '22 - 8:57am

    As someone who often has to produce literature for our councillors in well-educated North Oxford, this approach can’t come soon enuff.

    I ope a suteably consize ‘eejits gide’ will be projuiced to help thows hoo haven’t bennefited from an Oxbridge educashun.

  • And the author of the first chapter of Genesis would be facing retraining / expulsion. (And the morning and the evening were the first day). And Blake (“And did those feet…”) And, is as good a word as any to start a sentence. And that is true, whatever your teacher may have said. And whatever the date…

  • It is about time that the Lib Dems took pedantry seriously. In fact, ‘The Voice’ should be reported for not capitalising the second instance of “the Party President” in this article. On second thoughts, the party president might prefer to capitalise on his new book “Polling UnPacked”.

  • Please add to list:
    Using any photo with resolution less than 300dpi
    Saving graphics as .jpg instead of .png or .eps (Use jpg only for photos)
    Double penalty for low resolution fuzzy “Bird with the words Liberal Democrats” in the VOTE …. X box on election leaflet
    (I get these faults far too frequently on artwork sent to me to print.)

  • @Simon Pike – Oops!

  • The worrying thing is that it’s so believable under the aegis of the Pack regime.

  • I agree with Mark Pack. We must be punctilious.

  • nvelope2003 1st Apr '22 - 11:27am

    Maybe the reason why we don’t get many really funny April Fool jokes is that most of what we hear every day is unbelievable……

  • Tristan Ward 1st Apr '22 - 11:48am

    A special penalty for anyone who uses “invite” as a noun please.

    And a very special penalty for those who use “inspirational” when they mean “inspiring”.

    And an extra special penalty for 8 year old “students” (what is wrong with “pupils”?

    Thank you for letting me get these off my chest.

  • Kay Kirkham 1st Apr '22 - 12:37pm

    And while we are at it – when did ‘sum up’ a debate become ‘summate’?

  • Helen Dudden 1st Apr '22 - 12:38pm

    I was blind for two years, during that time my use of the English language went downhill, so to speak. After my gradual return to sight I had little understanding of perception and how words were formed.

    The many cups that missed the draining board, other china joined in.

    I hope that my use of the English language that at times falls short, I also have a dyslexic son.

  • And one of the most frequently broken rules at this season: Councillor is used in the vocative case, councillor is nominative, as any fule know.

  • Timely post. I have even seen some sloppy people spelling Spaghetti tree with only one t?

  • Another inappropriate usage that should be sanctioned is impact as a substitute for affect and the appallingly clumsy associated use of impacted. Impact is OK when referring to an extreme affect but is devalued by over use.

  • Andrew Toye 1st Apr '22 - 3:16pm

    My #1 gripe is the use (and excessive use) of @computercode in the #writtenword. It’s even got into our campaigning when we called for a #peoplesvote (trying to overturn another #people’svote because it resulted in the #wrongoutcome). Are we 2l8 to stop this? Can we re-wire our tech to recognise #spacesinbetweenwords? Or are we all #lost4words?

    Totally #’d off
    LOL

  • Yeovil Yokel 1st Apr '22 - 3:19pm

    The “Pack regime”, John Payne? Is that the one where groups of bearded sandal-wearing strangers knock on people’s doors after sunset claiming to be ‘canvassers’, brandishing orange stickers and smiling in a most threatening fashion, who then proceed to hammer stakeboards into their lawns as punishment for voting blue the last time?

    If so, I’m all for it.

  • @Martin. What? Never heard of the Heidelberg colon? In that case, the only way to avoid using one is to never use colons at all.

  • And learn to not split innfinitives either, forsooth.

  • Not to mention chucking spilling before posting.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 2nd Apr '22 - 12:14pm

    I think that the Party President needs to reconsider his position.
    it says “Two or more spaces between sentences. This is on the insistence of the Party President.”
    but didn’t Rees Mogg insist on 2 spaces after a full stop? we can’t have such imitations of him in Lib Dems.
    (although to be hones i always use 2 spaces…. maybe I should decide if I belong here either.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 2nd Apr '22 - 12:17pm

    @Margaret is right to point out “And learn to not split innfinitives either, forsooth.”. In the 80’s I made a speech about the NHS at Council and was told by a leading Tory they couldn’t agree with me as I had split an infinitive and she was disappointed in me for such. (yes, true).

  • My research on the “Safari” search engine (if that’s the term) into the ‘ Heidelberg colon’ offered several fine photographs of Heidelberg. Adjacent entries seem to suggest a medical or surgical context, so it may be worth looking into, for those keen to get to the bottom of the conundrum.

  • Robert Harrison 2nd Apr '22 - 3:36pm

    I’m looking for support on a constitutional amendment about holding enquiries or inquiries and the appropriate sanctions for the use of the wrong word in the wrong context.

  • Duncan Brack 2nd Apr '22 - 7:37pm

    Two spaces after a full stop is an abomination, a hang-over from the days of manual typewriters which featured – necessarily – monospaced typefaces, so you needed two spaces between sentences to mark a longer gap than the one space between words. But in these days of digital proportionally spaced typefaces, they are not only unnecessary, but actively inelegant. And to think this is at the insistence of the President! Happily, thanks to another constitutional amendment at spring conference, we now have the ability to no-confidence the President, and this seems to me to provide a clear and pressing justification …

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Apr '22 - 8:45am

    As a grammar pedant, I shudder at the continued presence of the grocer’s apostrophe in many of our publications and the misuse of ” and ‘. We don’t need Americanisms here.

  • Two spaces after a full-stop improve readability.
    Sentences should not begin with “and” or “me”.
    Plurals should not be preceded by “is”, e.g. “There’s two of us”.

  • “Less” is analogue, e.g. less mashed potato.
    “Fewer” is digital, e.g. fewer potatoes.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Apr '22 - 10:10am

    @Duncan Brack, I think you have misunderstood re two spaces at the end of sentences. The Party President wishes to banish all modern instances of this from the face of the earth so you are on the same side.

  • Peter Martin 3rd Apr '22 - 10:47am

    @ Margaret,

    “And learn to not split innfinitives (sic) either, forsooth.”

    Exactly. Up with this we should not have to put!

  • Phil Beesley 3rd Apr '22 - 1:23pm

    The submissions from those arguing for two spaces at the end of a sentence appear to end with one space.

    Let’s see. If. My two spaces are contracted by the editing system.

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