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Michael Gove defends his grammar rules

Lord Chancellor Michael Gove was criticised over the weekend for issuing a set of grammar rules for civil servants. The list, which appeared on the Ministry of Justice intranet, warned staff to refrain from beginning sentences with ‘however’ and using the words ‘ensure’ and ‘unnecessary’. It also encouraged civil servants to avoid excessive use of hyphens.

Not everyone was enamoured by his guidelines; the Guardian likened him to a Harry Enfield character, while Oliver Kamm claimed in the Times this morning that his grammar rules were simply nonsense.

Appearing on today’s World at One, Gove attempted to downplay his guidelines:

‘When I was at the Department for Education, I sent a note round with some of my preferences, I wouldn’t say they were golden rules and the extremely assiduous officials at the Ministry of Justice passed that material on to those who were preparing correspondence and briefs but it’s excited quite a lot of comment.’

Happily, Gove admitted he was not perfect after Martha Kearney pointed out that he previously used the word ‘operationalising’ on the radio much to the horror of listeners.

While he has promised to ‘have a word with the keeper of the arc of the English language’ about what works and what doesn’t, in the meantime Stephen Fry is on hand to advise. Gove went onto say that he had ‘received a text correcting me on some of my own errors linguistically’. It’s good to know someone’s paying attention.

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