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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Evans Unleashes Inner Grammar Nazi on MNPS | Jonathan Meador, Nashville Scene

How embarrassing for a school district; in this case, the Nashville School District.

In posts on her blog, Nashville Councilwoman Emily Evans criticized the poor grammar, spelling and run-on sentences she discovered on the school district's website and elsewhere (including a large sign in front of a school that misspelled kindergarten).

Her language is a bit over the top, even insulting--and some parents criticized her for not researching and considering possible reasons for the errors. She wrote, for example:
Resident no more is any sense that upper and middle management understand that their inability to sweat the small stuff is likely to translate into failure on much larger and more important efforts. The pursuit appears to be largely one of mediocrity.
Still, she makes a good point. Writing errors in public materials of an institution that teaches writing can certainly raise questions about the competence and attention to detail of at least the people involved in those materials. But it can raise questions about the authority and credibility of the school district itself.

Meador writes:
With so many examples to prove her point, it does seem that [Metro Nashville Public Schools] has invited extra scrutiny at a time when charter schools are starting to dominate local education policy and discourse. By extrapolating these errors, Evans makes a case that the dry rot of public schools and their parent bureaucracies has crept onto the front lawns of schools across the city for all to see.
As longtime former communications specialist for public agencies, I understand all the demands on time for ensuring every document and website is free of writing (and factual) errors. It's especially difficult in school districts that, notoriously, are understaffed.

But as stated in an editorial style manual I helped develop for that local government, one reason for a resource to aid consistent, correct use of capitalization, grammar, numbers, punctuation and words was to enhance credibility: 
Ultimately, it helps our readers believe we are presenting information with thought and care to meet their needs.

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