Bashford is overdue a visit to her local lending library

Another sad moment for Croydon Council later this week, when Richard Gibbs, the head of press office since the days before Jon Rouse took control of Taberner House, takes voluntary redundancy.

Sad as it marks the departure of a long-time local public servant, but also because it means that there will be one fewer in Croydon Council’s press office who actually knows the basics of grammar, such as the use of apostrophes for possessives and not for plurals.

Take the example of this recent press release, under the heading…
“Three park cafe’s for rent”

Cafe’s?

Yes, in the title of a press release. It is not an accent over the e in café (a nod to the word’s French origins, but all a bit poncey for our taste), but a real-life grocer’s apostrophe. In a press release. Issued by a media department that costs the local Council Tax-payers £441,234 a year.

There are other errors in the headline too. It ought to be “parks”, the plural of park, since it is about three parks. And therefore, as cafes are of the parks, there is need of an apostrophe to signify this. Thus:

“Three parks’ cafes for rent”.

Three errors in a five-word headline. Good work!

We’re all entitled to one-off errors (this in anticipation of the Croydon press office spending hours going through Inside Croydon‘s posts, playing “hunt the spelling mistake”, and all on Croydon Council Tax-payers’ time).

But the writing in this council-issued press release just gets worse.

For a start, it is cliché ridden:

“The council is looking for businesses that will bring a real spark of extra life to these already popular destinations…” Oh please. And can you add “extra” life to something anyway?

But that’s not the worst of it.

The press release includes a quote from one of the council’s ruling Conservative group’s cabinet members, and so we assume must have been signed off by them.

Step forward Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services, culture and sport, who has cleared for release this quote in her name:

“Cafe’s are a great addition to parks – they allow people to share a coffee with friends in a beautiful environment.”

“Cafe’s”?

CAFE’S?

Councillor Bashford, of course, is notorious for conducting a council-funded consultation on the future of six branch libraries in Croydon, and then not making the findings of that consultation public.

She is also the councillor who, in a leaflet distributed in her own ward, glibly suggested that it would be cheaper to hand out book vouchers rather than keep her local library open. Of course, this is absolute nonsense, as the council’s own figures proved.

Inside Croydon has a suggestion for Councillor Bashford: trot along to your local library, and ask for the loan of a copy of Lynne Truss’s (note the use of the apostrophe) Eats Shoots and Leaves. It would be far cheaper for you than having to buy a copy (though you’d probably end up claiming it on council expenses).

And when you’ve finished with the book, you could even let the Croydon press office borrow it for a while.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to Bashford is overdue a visit to her local lending library

  1. John Bownas says:

    We freely admit that that nobody is perfect, and the person responsible now feels suitably sheepish!

    However it’s always good to know that people are at least taking the time to read council news items in enough detail to pick up on poor punctuation.

    Thanks for the heads up that this one had also slipped through onto the website. For future reference the best way that people can notify us of any such issues is to use the feedback buttons at the foot of the page as these will generate a note to the relevant person so that the problem can be remedied.

  2. Jessica Bashford says:

    I am very picky about grammar, and particularly apostrophes, so I did appreciate this article. However, I do have a query.

    If you’re writing an article on apostrophes, why would you bother to write ‘Lynne Truss’s (note the use of the apostrophe) Eats shoots and leaves’ with a pointless ‘s’ after the correct apostrophe?

    Surely anyone who is being observant about apostrophes would realise the ‘s’ after the apostrophe, when the subject ends in a ‘s’ itself, is not wrong but it is utterly redundant? Why make it look so clumsy? Therefore I would like to point out that writing Lynne Truss’ Eats shoots and leaves is more appropriate, if you are choosing to write an unnecessarily scathing article.

    • Thanks very much for your interest, Jessica. Of course, we would say that we wrote a necessarily scathing article.

      Perhaps you can ask your mummy when she will stop withholding the results of the borough’s library consultation – there’s really no need to hang on to it for more than four months, unless, of course, there is something to hide.

      Interesting that you should home in on what you yourself admit is a non-error in our piece. Presumably you, like us, take a dim view of the poor grammar in the council’s press release.

      As you say, on the matter of using possesive apostrophes after the letter “S”, there are alternative usages.

      Our training – with reference to grammar and editing guides such as Fowler and Gowers (these are books, and not necessarily easy to refer to simply by using the interweb) – has always been that it aids the reader to add the second or third “S” after an apostrophe.

      Gowers states, “Logic would insist on adding another S as well as an apostrophe; and this is certainly the commonest practice with monosyllables – Mr Jones’s room, St James’s Street…”

      And thus Lynne Truss’s book.

      The Complete Plain Words, by Sir Ernest Gowers, or Fowler’s Modern English Usage, should both be available in good libraries. You may need to hurry before your mummy has some of Croydon’s libraries closed.

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