The importance of proper English

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RECENTLY, I was in a branch of a well-known bookshop where I spotted an obvious grammatical error in a notice.

When I pointed it out to a member of staff he said it must be correct as “I done English at uni.”

Sadly there is a whole generation of teachers who can’t spell or understand basic grammar. I have rarely read a popular novel where I have not had to correct the author’s English, and this has included quite well-known writers.

And (I know this is a preposition with which to start a sentence) don’t get me started on the use of commas instead of full stops.

To claim, as some do, that grammar and spelling are irrelevant today because language has evolved is a weak excuse.

Text language is a great invention – for texting – and applications like Twitter are a really useful way of learning how to say something relevant in a very few words – a skill many politicians seem to lack.

Language should be appropriate for its purpose and in formal writing it should be formal language.

I suspect part of the problem lies in the lack of language teaching. If students learn the grammatical structure of another language they will better understand their own.

As a sometime classics scholar, I’d also like to point out that schools which have reintroduced Latin into the curriculum report better English spelling and grammar, as many of our words and phrases come from that language.

MB, via email

Another view of TV licence fee

B Derbyshire’s comparison of the TV licence fee with the poll tax (Letters, May 21), illustrates a common misconception.

The fee is a licence to receive anything broadcast over the airwaves, be it radio, TV or satellite broadcasting.

If, in addition, a viewer opts to finance BSkyB or Virgin, that is his or her choice.

In order to watch Formula 1 motor racing on Sky, I must first buy a “package” of channels that I shall never watch, and then pay additional fees for the channels I do want to see. That is why I refuse to add to Murdoch’s millions.

Roger Bacon, via email

It can be a dog’s life when it’s hot

With the recent arrival of hot weather, we should be reminded that animals suffer and die when temperatures rise. Dogs die very quickly in hot cars and they should not be left inside them even for short periods. Opening a window an inch is not sufficient.

Other animals suffer, too. Rabbits must not be left in a hutch in the glaring sun or inside a sweltering garage or shed. They need a cool, shady place where the air circulates, and where they are able to move freely. A hot rabbit can be kept cool by applying cold water gently to his ears. Should your rabbit become listless, or start breathing hard through an open mouth or go limp, get him to a vet immediately.

Smaller animals, like hamsters, can be kept cool by opening windows and closing curtains, using a fan (but not pointing it directly at them) and providing water.

Kate Fowler, Animal Aid