Monthly Archives: June 2015

Michael Gove on “however” and contractions

Michael Gove, the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, has given his civil servants some guidance on writing.

I won’t go over all of it, but a few things stand out.

First, some positives. He urges civil servants to take a “warm tone” and be “gracious in thanking people for their letters”, to avoid being repetitive or “too pompous”, and to acknowledge their correspondents’ views and arguments even if not agreeing with them.

This is good. Official letters are often impersonal, stern and even hostile, so this shove from the top is welcome.

He also tells civil servants to avoid using “this” and “it” on their own, instead wanting them “to write exactly what they are referring to”. This can help – sorry, this advice can help – to make writing easier to understand.

But two things I disagree with. Continue reading