Spotted on the street
One of the hazards of being a former English teacher and occasional copywriter/editor is that it really grates on me when I see spot clumsy, untidy or simply inaccurate grammar. It gets worse when I spot it in materials produced government or government-linked organisations, because it’s the government, of course, that loves to harangue Singaporeans to speak good English.
The National Environment Agency, for instance, thinks that “Switch off your lights when not in use” is an acceptable expression in English. I understand the need to be economical with language in an advertisement, but there’s a limit to how economical one can be before either clarity or elegance is sacrificed.
It could still make sense, because it implies that “you” should switch off the lights when you are not in use, but what does that mean — when one is asleep?
“Switch off your lights when they’re not in use”, folks. That one word is key.
The other sinner is POSB: “To know how, visit any POSB branch today.” I suppose arguably it works for them if they’re trying to use Singlish to reach out to a particular market, but it’s so inelegant it’s enough to give me the hives just thinking about it. Not to mention the fact that it sounds like one of those phrases this year’s Speak Good English Movement ad campaign would’ve singled out for re-expression in grammatically accurate English:
Instead of “To know how, visit any POSB Branch today”, say, “To find out how, visit any POSB branch today.”
And so the quest for impeccable English continues …
Related post: Speak Good English meh?