Monthly Archives: February 2011

Take the hint

The use of ‘infer’ for ‘imply’ frustrates me. Getting ‘disinterested’ wrong, for instance, is at least understandable, but this? It seems as ridiculous as mixing up ‘explain’ and ‘understand’, or ‘give’ and ‘receive’, or ‘headbutt’ and ‘suffer an untimely nasal collapse’.

Identity crisis

At work, which I’m going to call the Blenkinsop Foundation (not its real name), one of the things I do is look after our house style guide.

Today I am delighted to discover that the way we refer to ourselves has been changed. While we still prefer to use the first person, that’s not practical in every context, so in other cases we’ve used “Blenkinsop Foundation” on first mention and just “Foundation” thereafter.

No longer: now, when in the third person, it must always be “Blenkinsop Foundation”. In full. Every time. Methinks somebody high up is overcompensating for brand name performance anxiety. I have two problems with this:

  1. It’s a bad decision. It is going to grate very quickly in those paragraphs where we use the name repeatedly in quick succession.
  2. It was badly made. You’d think they would have wanted to seek my opinion on this, what with it being a prominent house style decision; failing that, you’d think they would at least have kept me informed, as I’m one of the key people who makes these things happen.

My writer colleague, from whom I discovered this, was able to reassure me on this point: “Tom knows all about it,” she was told. Phew. I guess I just didn’t know that I knew. Where’s Donald Rumsfeld when you need him?


My name’s Tom. I’m an assistant editor for a charity in London, which among other things publishes quite a lot of stuff. Like almost all jobs, mine is sometimes dull and sometimes frustrating – but I get to play around with words, which I enjoy. I said in my job interview six years ago that I wanted “to get my hands dirty with copy”. And so I do.

The point of this blog is to be somewhere I can wash my hands of particularly odious abuses of language, whether they’re ones I’ve seen at work or in wider reading. Hopefully it won’t just be a barrage of sneering and ranting, but you know the old saying: if you can’t think of anything nice to say, start a blog. With luck, along the way I’ll manage to think of some nice, constructive and possibly even interesting and amusing things to say. No promises, though.

Except for this one: I will definitely produce some typos and grammatical howlers and ugly, dreary clichés. I am not as sharp as I think I am, and so another aim is to change that. Whether it’s by destroying my self-esteem or by improving my ability, we’ll see.