Thursday, 22 March 2007

The prepositions are fine, but...

A friend asked me today whether it was OK to use a preposition at the end of a sentence in a training manual he was writing. I was able to reassure him that his use of prepositions was fine. I even quoted the "Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Style" (Oxford University Press, 2004, p.96) which unambiguously rubbishes the "no-preposition-at-the-end-of-a-sentence" rule:

"Some people argue that you should never place
a preposition at the end of a sentence...
This opinion is...completely wrong. Writers have been
placing prepositions at the end of sentences for
centuries, for the very good reason that this
is often the best place for them...
So this is one "rule" that can safely be ignored."

However, as you can see below, my friend had been so concerned about this non-rule that he had blundered into some very bad referencing instead. Here's what he originally wrote:

"COO users will not be able to view records that
are sitting in the HR bucket. HR users will be able
to view all records, no matter which bucket they
are sitting in."

When I pointed out to him what he had actually written, he laughed and cheerfully went back to his own "bucket" to make some corrections.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Rewriting the Bible

Reading an inflight magazine on a flight from Spain to the UK, I saw an article on the restoration of some frescoes in a church in Mallorca. One had a picture of a scene in which Jesus turns water into wine. Most English versions of this Bible story call it "the Miracle at Cana".

It appears that the publishers of this magazine forgot to have their translations read by a copy-editor who could check the facts in their context. Or perhaps they had decided that the translation they had sounded Biblical enough so it didn't need to be checked. Shame about that, because they called the picture in the frescoe "the Miracle at Canaan"!

Better grammar - at your local supermarket now!

According to a news item on the Plain English Campaign's web site, the Tesco supermarket chain is to replace the signs reading "10 items or less" with new signs reading "Up to 10 items".
Lovers of good English usage have always been infuriated by the old signs because they ignored the rule that "fewer" is used with countable nouns and "less" is only used with non-countable nouns, as in "I worked fewer hours last week and so I earned less money".

Now I wonder when supermarkets are going to stop selling "stationary"?

(Many thanks to my friend Karen M. for pointing out this news item.)