Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gordon Brown's typos: bad penmanship, poor vision, or disrespect?

In the age of the mangled-beyond-all-recognition text message, it looks like typos still matter.

In the above video clip, British PM Gordon Brown apologizes after the mother of a dead UK soldier took offense at Brown's handwritten letter of condolence, where he misspells a slew of words, including her last name ("James" instead of "Janes") and "cumfort" instead of "comfort," even scribbling over her deceased son's name, Jamie.

The original story:

Brown has sent a handwritten letter to the survivors of every soldier killed in action, which is the minimum gesture one might expect from a country's leader, but Brown is also known for his notoriously bad handwriting, grammatical, and spelling skills. Recipe for disaster.

Some are defending Brown, saying that the typos are a result of his being blind in one eye from a teenage rugby accident, but I've never heard of a link between being blind in one eye and being a poor speller. As an instructor, I have to say, "I'll need to see a doctor's note on this one."

Regardless of political posturing from either side, it's pretty clear that Brown should have simply taken some time to write the letter, had someone read it over - hello, PR department? - and then taken some more time to rewrite it again properly. Hey, even Wikipedia has a volunteer typo team!

"There are no good writers, just good rewriters," right? Write!

On Remembrance Day, I always think of Roger Waters' "When the Tigers Broke Free," a moving song about a soldier's sacrifice and the pitiful scroll his family gets from King George in return for his life:
"And kind old King George
Sent mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall, in the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp
To remember his majesty signed with his own rubber stamp."
We've taken care of the rubber stamp, now let's take care of the typos.

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