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15 October 2010 | Aidan Lawes Blog
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Grumpy Old Man Syndrome
This week Aidan is having fun with one of the utility companies and can't find his pipe...

  Aidan Lawes

I’m feeling particularly like a GOM this week. Once again I’m wrestling with utility companies, which is like trying to pick up jelly on a hot day. Their problem is a common configuration one. Their maps on the system show a surface water sewer pipe and several manholes (CIs), but we can’t locate the pipe or most of the manholes on the ground. How do I know if I need permission to do some work, if I don’t know whether the pipe really exists where the map says it is, and how can I submit a plan showing proximity to the alleged pipe if it can’t be found? Circular arguments, red tape and jobs-worth responses – every customer’s nightmare and what should be a service provider’s concern. The trouble is, I’m not sure they see themselves as service providers, but as bureaucrats managing a complex infrastructure, for whom the consumer is all too often a nuisance.

In the GOM mood, I thought I’d offer some thoughts for those “lucky” enough to have been educated in the UK’s “spelling and grammar don’t matter” schools.

Complimentary:  adjective – giving praise; free
Complementary: adj – completing; balancing

Principal: adj – main
Principle: noun –a fundamental truth; consistent regulation of behavior according to moral law

Fewer: comparative - used for numbers
Less: comparative - used for quantities

Apostrophe:  n – a mark signifying the omission of a letter or indicating the possessive case. Grossly misunderstood and misused; often referred to as the “Greengrocer’s Apostrophe” when randomly inserted in inappropriate words simply because they end in “s”.

They’re: they are
Their: poss adj - of or belonging to them
There:  adverb – in that place

We’re: we are
Were: intranisitive verb – the plural of was

Its: poss form of it
It’s: it is

Similar constructions and confusion arise with your and you’re.

I think its wonderful that so many principle consultant’s recommend ITIL; particularly the complimentary publications which their so often heard mentioning as being the communities addition to the core publication sweet. Your welcome to your opinion, but I welcome the day when there are less core books and more complimentary ones.

The only good thing about this is, of course, the statement that there are some free publications available and that they may be edible – which unfortunately we know isn’t the case. But how confident do you feel about accrediting a course where the applicant has trouble copying words from one place to another or can’t spell their own job title?

I fully accept that all languages evolve over time: new words are assimilated or made up; others wither and die; the common usage of some words changes their meaning. But such changes usually happen because of specific actions, inventions or movements – e.g. a lot of the technical jargon associated with computing or the less pejorative use of the word “gay” to describe the same sex community. What is hard to simply accept is where the individual has unknowingly used the wrong word or got the grammar wrong.

The use of software tools has exacerbated the situation as people blithely expect mistakes to be flagged by the word processor. Yet the above passage in italics triggered only one warning from MS Word!

Does it really matter whether people can spell and punctuate their writing? Well, too many of us who are of “a certain age”, yes it does. Not only is it irritating and off-putting to encounter mis-spelt words and mangled sentences, sometimes the whole meaning is lost through poor punctuation.

One of my favourite examples of how punctuation can change the meaning is that quoted by Lynn Truss in her book “Eats, shoots and leaves”.

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.” Or
“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

There are, of course, many other examples that are somewhat contrived, but the point is valid nonetheless. The use of the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation enriches our communications and helps enormously in avoiding misunderstandings. And it keeps GOM like me from choking on our gruel.

Just in case …….

I think it’s wonderful that so many principal consultants recommend ITIL; particularly the complementary publications which they’re so often heard mentioning as being the community’s addition to the core publication suite. You’re welcome to your opinion, but I welcome the day when there are fewer core books and more complementary ones.

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!!


Computer Weekly have announced the IT Blog Awards 2010 in their quest to find the best blogs in the UK IT industry.

If you have enjoyed reading any of the ITP blogs then please nominate your favourite blogger by clicking on the link below, the closing date is Friday 15th October 2010 



(ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.) 

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