A Guest Post From Luke Nightingale: Soubry’s Problematic Punctuation.

In March this year the government released its new “framework” for testing the spelling, punctuation and grammar of 8-11 year olds.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has implemented a series of back-to-basics reforms which involve testing 11-year-old children on their ability “to use punctuation marks correctly in their writing, including full stops, question and exclamation marks, commas, inverted commas, and apostrophes to mark possession and omission.” (Framework Document, p. 9).
Keen followers of the Broxtowe political scene will already be fearful of our local MP’s prospects under this new back-to-basics regime. Indeed, assessing Anna Soubry MP’s regular email newsletters against Michael Gove’s criteria is a time-consuming task. Why? The sheer volume of punctuation errors made by Soubry is quite extraordinary. She routinely pluralises “MP” with an apostrophe, appears to have no knowledge of compound adjectives, has a bizarre understanding of quote marks, and often splits single words in two (“stereo typing”, “grand parents”), often with amusing consequences.
A careful reading of Soubry’s output suggests that her punctuation almost never meets the standards that her government expects of 11-year-old children. According to Gove’s Draft National Curriculum, children of this age are required to successfully use “the semi-colon, colon and dash to mark the boundary between independent clauses” and to understand “how hyphens can be used to avoid ambiguity (e.g. man eating shark versus man-eating shark, or recover versus re-cover)”. Indeed, many of Soubry’s newsletters fail even to meet the standards demanded of 9-year-olds, who are expected to successfully use “apostrophes to mark singular and plural possession”.
The incredible frequency of Soubry’s errors suggests that the problem is one of incompetence rather than sloppiness. And apparently the office staff who check her writing do not have adequate literacy skills either. It is remarkable that, from the £89,684.10 that our MP spent on staff in 2010-11, Soubry was unable to find a single employee with the punctuation proficiency of an 11-year-old.
It may be that readers simply do not believe my claims. To convince yourselves, please stroll over to the “Anna Soubry’s Punctuation” site (http://annasoubryspunctuation.tumblr.com), which has, since Easter, been publishing one new Soubry error per day. So far enough have been found to keep up this publication frequency until the end of the year at least.
Fortunately, thanks to Michael Gove’s reforms, Soubry will soon be able to brush up on her literacy skills at any local primary school. I wish her well in her endeavours.

11 thoughts on “A Guest Post From Luke Nightingale: Soubry’s Problematic Punctuation.

  1. Javid says:

    Ms (or is it Miss?) Soubry only need learn a few punctuations such as:

    Westminster’s woman in Broxtowe not Broxtowe’s woman in Westminster (or was it the other way round?).

    My home’s in the constituency (or maybe not)

    My swimming pool’s not very warm today.

    Soubry’s stately homes

    I shall soon be Rushcliffe’s MP and not need to worry about you lot any more.

  2. Gareth says:

    I enjoy a bit of grammatical pedantry as much as anyone. And I agree that Gove’s continual chest beating will do little to improve standards in education. But frankly, I think there are many more serious criticisms to level at members of the Government than this.

  3. Brian Rowe says:

    Her Maths ability isn’t that great either. I have emailed her to ask if she will correct the error in her newsletter, where she quoted the Tory to Labour swing in Beeston South and Attenborough as ‘just 2.1%’, when it’s actually 3.9%. She appears to have quoted the increase in Labour’s vote, ignoring the Tory decrease. Almost on a par with Eric Kerry’s 2009 leaflet (which I use as a GCSE resource to demonstrate misleading statistics).

  4. Mike B says:

    Re Gove’s ‘Back to Basics’ reforms, I am tickled by his insistence that all children should know their multiplication tables up to X12. Why? We have had decimal currency since the early ’70s, when the only reason to know your 12X table vanished along with the twelve pennies to a pound. Base 10 is what matters, so stop the rote-learning at X10, and with the time saved concentrate on the teaching of punctuation…..

  5. Rollersnakes23 says:

    Why don’t you re-name this Blog the “We Hate Anna Soubry Blog” and have done with it? Really guys, it’s getting boring …. think of something else, please….

  6. Luke says:

    Gareth, Taylor Pig: you might have a point if Soubry wasn’t a member of a government which has repeatedly and tediously stressed the importance of correct punctuation. Inability to use apostrophes *and* hypocrisy is a toxic mix.

    This is from a David Cameron speech:
    “Where they said… grammar and spelling – well they don’t matter… after all: it’s elitist and old-fashioned to care about these things… we have said: you’re wrong and it’s time to wake up. Our children can’t compete in this world without a real education. So we’re saying spelling, grammar and punctuation – they do matter and children should be marked on them too. Instead of dumbing down, we’re sharpening up.”

  7. Fluffles says:

    Yawn. Look out for next week’s guest post “Soubz a little bit rubbish at reverse parking”.

  8. To paraphrase my speech of 16th March this year: Fluffles, you’re wrong and it’s time to wake up.

  9. CT says:

    Well, yes, of course there are more important aspects of this government’s policies to concern us but nit-picking your opponents’ spelling and grammar is good fun and, besides, they started it! You would think that when 100 academics attacked his proposed curriculum reforms, Michael Gove would have wanted to give a well-argued rebuttal. Instead, the only response seems to have been from his mates like free-school advocate and founder, Toby Young, to ‘judge’ their letter as illiterate and award them a Bad Grammar prize. In fact, the letter is quite clear and it is only by using outdated Latinate grammar to analyse the language that you can claim to find anything ‘wrong’. Meanwhile, Gove himself is heard muttering “Yaddah, yaddah,” on Question Time, to belittle a political opponent, and recently uttered the word “bonkeroony” which I suspect Young wouldn’t want teachers to be using in his ‘traditional’ school. The moral is: if you insist on always being ‘correct’, expect people to pick on any slips you make, however slight.

  10. Luke says:

    Good news: in the two email newsletters she has sent since this article was posted, Anna’s punctuation has been much improved.

    Indeed, if you momentarily forget her understandable confusion between hyphens and dashes, I found no mistakes at all. An early success for Gove’s reformed curriculum?

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