Illiteracy Watch

Illiteracy Watch – or IW for brevity – is our irregular observation of the insouciant abuse to which the English language is daily subjected

IW1: Betrayed

£72 is rather expensive for a book, even a hardback. But The Betrayal – the Nuremberg Trials and German Divergence by Kim Christian Priemel (2016), which I bought the other day (we all have our quirks), is a text rich in detail from a world-class specialist, and published by Oxford University Press, a press synonymous with the finest quality. So it was a bit of a shock to read its opening sentence: “‘Why another book on Nuremberg, aren’t their [sic] loads already’ is, in all likelihood the question I have been asked most often while working on this project.’” Anyone can mistakenly type ‘their’ for ‘there’, especially someone whose first language is not English (Priemel is German). But it’s a shock to see such an expensive book with such a glaring and obvious error in its very first sentence – as if Oxford University Press had sacked its sub-editors or simply stopped caring about accuracy. Why bother about this slackness? After all, no-one died…only language got a little bit chipped.

IW2: The first causality of war


IW3: Gobbledegook

Illiteracy is not just a matter of bad grammar; it’s also about gobbledegook. This occurs with tedious regularity in online job ads, where there are lots of high-faluting words but the reader is left pondering what on earth the job entails, rather like this one on LinkedIn.

“—— is an expert services firm defined by HOW we solve challenges. Whether a client is facing an immediate business challenge, trying to increase the value of their company or protect against future risks, —— designs, develops, and executes tailored solutions by assembling the right combination of expertise. We build on this experience with every case, client, and situation, collaborating to create innovative, customized solutions, and strategies designed for today’s ever-changing business environment. This gives our clients unparalleled insight and experience across a wide range of economic, governance, and regulatory challenges. At ——, we know that collaboration drives results.”