Author Archives: Alan Paterson

Pennies & pounds & pedantry

Just received this from my bank:

Why is there a comma after my name? (But not after Yours sincerely. None would be better, but if one, why not t’other?)

Why is GOLD CARD rendered thus, twice. Gold Card would be less gratuitously shouty.

But worst of all, why ‘december Statement’? ‘Statement’ shouldn’t be initial cap, December absolutely should.

(I could quibble further about the constipated tone generally – ‘queries regarding this matter’ and the like – but I won’t.)

And this from the Head of Banking Services at one of Britain’s leading retail banks. Just, shoddy.

Bam bam bam

Reading the truly extraordinary ‘Fire and Fury’ – Michael Wolff’s account of life in the early Trump White House – terrifying and hilarious by turns, I ran into the opening of an early speech:

I was struck by the brevity of the sentences. Word counts of seven, six, three, three, four, four…

These are not the word counts of the average speech. Indeed, I don’t think you’d find many speeches above school debating society level featuring such brief sentences, one after another. But they work. In their bam bam bam simplicity, they connect at the most fundamental level with Trump’s core constituency. It’s the rhythm as much as anything you might call meaning that conveys the only message that really matters: he’s one of us; he’s like me.


The beauty of the commonplace

Just received from China – a juicer to replace the glass one I put in the microwave to heat  juice for blending with butter. (Not recommended.) My wife tells me they’re all using these these days, so I got one off ebay – barely north of a couple of quid and look at the thing:

Beautiful. Functional too, no doubt. And all for less than the price of a half of dog-breath.

Just because

A friend (an ex-coder) was grumbling about Plex’s bugginess, and lamenting the lack of pride in their work manifested by their programmers, who clearly, he claimed, were far too inclined to proceed on a ‘that’ll do’ basis, rather than testing things properly to ensure their robustness.

Something came to mind from my student days, and rather to my surprise I managed to track it down, from Norman Malcolm’s memoir of Wittgenstein:

I like to think there’s at least something of that spirit in the way I approach my work. Sloppiness in others’ copywriting doesn’t just grate, it arouses ‘genuinely moral disapproval’. Quite a lot of it about, I have to say…

Vote ME!

This election’s zinger suggests Labour have learned nothing from their decades spent on the wrong end of smart electioneering:

Now, whether or not you agree that it’s time for real change (underline for emphasis), you have to say it’s not much of a flag for the troops to rally under.

The right has this right. From Take Back Control to Make America Great Again, their words people seem to have grasped the essence of a great political slogan: that it’s not about persuading of, it’s about tapping into. An exercise in articulation, not explanation.

If you’re trying to convince people of a proposition (such as that it’s time for real change), you’ve fundamentally misunderstood the aim of the exercise. Winning elections is not about talking to people; it’s about speaking for them.

Michael Gove may have been utterly disingenuous when he said – as a paid up zealot for applied intelligence – that Britain had had enough of experts. But when did being disingenuous stand in the way of political success?

A tip for sloganeers: when you come up with a proposal, ask yourself one thing – can you imagine people sitting round in the pub this evening saying exactly that to their companions? If the answer’s no, get back to the drawing board.

No one said this stuff was easy. Those who do it well just make it look that way.