Rees-Mogg’s new punctuation directive - GulfToday

Rees-Mogg’s new punctuation directive

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Rees-Mogg’s new punctuation directive

Rees Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the newly appointed Leader of the British House of Commons. In his first few days in office he issued a directive to all his staff. That directive states that there are certain words and phrases his staff cannot use when communicating with external parties.

In addition to banning these words and phrases, he also specified exactly where certain punctuation marks could and could not be placed in sentences when sending out written communiques to people outside his office.

For example, no one is allowed to use the words ‘lot’, ‘got’, ‘very’ and ‘hopeful’. But it doesn’t end there, and I don’t mind telling you that the list made me laugh.  No one in his office is allowed to say, ‘I’m pleased to learn’ or to ‘meet with’ or even ‘I note/understand your concerns’.

There are multiple others besides the examples I’ve mentioned above. The thing I ponder about is that if he has banned such commonly used words, how on earth will his staff form sentences? These words and phrases are not old school or bad English. I think they’re his pet peeves because they are so commonly used.

That being said, not all his banned words appear to be pet peeves but they might be ‘old school’ or even a generational thing. I certainly agree with him to some extent. For example, like Rees-Mogg, I’ve always considered certain collective nouns to be singular, like organisations. 

For example an organisation like Facebook provides a service and not provide a service. But British English is flexible in that certain collective nouns can be either singular or plural, depending upon the context in which it is being used. A good case in point is the word ‘staff’.

Depending upon how the word is being used I believe that one can say your ‘your staff is very courteous,’ if you are referring to just one person, or you can say ‘your staff are very courteous’ if there are multiple people. Another directive is to use the word ‘Esq’ when addressing males who do not have a title. So rather than say ‘Mr John Smith’ they must say ‘John Smith, Esq’.

I’ve not seen this form of address on envelops in a very long time and thought that it was a remnant of past forms of address that are now predominately used by lawyers.

Unfortunately with this directive, Rees-Mogg has become the butt-end of several online jokes and criticism. What was going on with him, they ponder? Some argue that it could be his upbringing or something he himself was subjected to as a young boy. Maybe his schoolmaster was a stickler for punctuation, grammar and good vocabulary, as all good teachers should be.

Either that or he is just plain old school given the meticulousness of even how and where commas and full stops should be in sentences. However, to some of his critics, the last item on his directive might have given away part of his motive.

He has instructed his staff to use the Imperial Measurement System rather than the Metric. Metric measures were introduced by the European Union and Rees-Mogg happens to be a staunch Brexiteer so this last instruction might show a clear disdain for anything European related.

I think that both the Metric and Imperial systems have their own merits. As a case in point, I still can’t get my head around people giving their heights in metres or their weight in kilos. I still understand and visualise better someone who is 5 feet 11 and weighs 11 stones than someone who is 1.5 metres and weighs X kilos. On the other hand, I can visualised something that is 10cm long as much as I can something that is 5inches long

But I do want to make one final point, and it is something everyone who is a remainder or who does not want a no-deal Brexit, is probably already thinking. With all the Brexit/no-deal Brexit/remain/leave troubles in the UK, where a comma is placed, and whether or not someone accidentally used the word ‘hopefully’ in a sentence, is not going to solve the key EU issue, is it? I am very ‘hopeful’ that a ‘lot’ of the issues worrying British citizens regarding Brexit will be resolved ‘very’ soon.

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