Freelance round-up: This month in writing

Don’t skimp on the proofreading!

Following a gaffe by Swansea Council, a journalist has highlighted one of the perils of cutting back on proofreading.

Swansea Council officials requested the Welsh translation of a road sign reading: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only.” Naturally, you might assume, they presumed the reply from a translator was what they asked for. Unfortunately, the email response to Swansea council said, in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". This then went onto the road sign.

Journalist Dylan Iorwerth told the BBC: "When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh.”

Another Welsh to English cock-up in 2006 meant that a sign for pedestrians in Cardiff read “Look right” in English but “Look left” in Welsh. Oops.

Academy launched to police use of English

“Good English matters – the world uses it – we must keep it safe from declining standards” declares the home page of the Queen’s English Society (QES), which recently launched its English Academy.

On the QES website, the Society explains why it feels the Academy is needed. It states: “Other languages (French and Spanish, for example) have supreme authorities that try, while moving with the times, to define what is good and acceptable usage and what is not. They do not stop the language from changing over the years but they do provide a measure of linguistic discipline and try to retain valid and useful neologisms (new terms) while rejecting passing fads that may be in use today but are not destined to endure.”

It adds that:“Precisely because our language is so widespread — and also because there has been a dreadful devaluation and deterioration of education in our hectic modern, digitalised world — we do desperately need some form of moderating body to set an accepted standard of good English above all in England — the ancestral home of the language — and, by extension, in Britain.”

As well as links to grammar and dictionary sites and articles on what the Society sees as the poor state of English teaching in the UK, the Academy area of the QES site also includes a ‘Rogues’ Gallery’, naming and shaming those who “occupy a public position in politics, TV, the press, public service or the like” who misuse English but “should know better”. Rogues so far include David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown who, during the Prime Ministerial Debates, were all allegedly heard to say "If I was your Prime minister..." The Academy emphatically corrects them: “If I WERE”.

Australian Journalist of the Year commended for pioneering use of Twitter

Latika Bourke, a political journalist, was recently named the 2010 Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year, with special mention given to her "pioneering" use of social networking site Twitter.

She was given the award for her coverage of the Liberal leadership crisis that saw Tony Abbott topple Malcolm Turnbull.

Of her use of Twitter in her work, she said: "Suddenly we had this brand new watercooler of instant leads, some of them dud, speculation, rumour and hearsay and sometimes real legitimate facts. So it was an extra challenge of reporting back in this new concept of instant. Working in radio you'd think I would know what instant was, but Twitter just changed all of that.

“But this also meant you had to be extra cautious about what leads you were following, what sources you were using and what direction you were taking."

On, she discusses her work in more detail.

Sarah Wray


30th June 2010

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