The North/South divide: Still a thing.

Disclaimer: I’m a northerner.

Check out this story on ComputerWorldUK, about a new competition launched to find the next £100m tech start-up, with a £1m prize and advice and support given to the winner. Where is it based? London. This is part of the government’s continued effort to create a tech hub in East London. Because of course, absolutely no technical expertise, skill and innovation happens outside of London. The Tech City initiative is just one more example of the government’s inability to focus on anywhere outside of London. It is so hopelessly short-sighted.

We can talk all day about the North/South divide, but the fact remains it is there. As someone whose office is in London but is a home-worker based in Manchester, I make the trip from North to South regularly. I’ve also lived many years in the South East and many years in the North West. I have seen first-hand the disparity between wealth accumulation and job availability in both locations. In short, London and the South East have money to burn; the North West is haemorrhaging jobs and increasing poverty all over the place. And it is not getting any better. This government is so wholly focused on its London bubble, it has all but forgotten that the rest of the country exists, except when it needs some votes and it has to muddy its feet north of the Watford Gap.

Sadly, some very good London based friends and colleagues are stuck in the same bubble. The disdain for anything outside of London is quite astonishing sometimes. I don’t rise to it, mainly because I’m used to it, and it’s something of a losing battle to begin with. But I also recognise the difference between a bit of harmless banter, and, well, some pretty nasty and disparaging views about anyone/anything in the North. The North of course in these situations referred to as some mystical, far away land, populated by people in flat caps, eating pies and claiming benefits they are not entitled to.

Honestly, it’s boring. So very mind-numbingly boring that these types of views still exist. But they do. And until the government looks outside of London and starts to do something for the rest of the UK, you know, like invest some actual money somewhere, the situation will remain the same.

It’s time for a rant. It’s been building for a while.

What has happened to our ability to spell, punctuate and grammatically construct even the simplest of sentences? It never ceases to amaze me the number of written missives I am on the receiving end of that are littered with spelling and grammar errors. I’m not talking about words which might be hard to spell, but simple words, like ‘simple’. I’m talking about incorrect use of their/there or your/you’re. I’m talking about entire paragraphs not threatened with a single punctuation mark. The basic stuff, the really basic stuff.

The saddest bit? I work in an industry where writing skills are considered a prerequisite. It’s genuinely disheartening! Don’t even get me started on CVs which haven’t had even the most rudimentary proof. I remember long afternoons at school filled with spelling tests and grammar lessons, it was important and we were taught that it was important. That emphasis on getting the basics right seems to have disappeared. I’ve heard people boasting of their inability to spell like it is something funny or to be proud of; or chuckling over the fact they don’t know what an apostrophe is.

I’m not saying I’m an expert by any stretch; I make mistakes, I have to check things, I use a dictionary, I check APs style guide and I am somewhat over judicious with my use of the semi colon. That’s the point though, I check. If I ever spot a typo on something I have sent or distributed I am aghast! At my current agency, we have a practice of making sure written documents are proofed before being sent externally, be it to a client or journalist. It is a good practice, often in PR things are written in haste because that’s the nature of the beast; mistakes are easily made and a second pair of eyes can often spot them quickly. It also means you learn and get into the habit of proofing as you go, because let’s be honest, no one likes to be picked up on a silly mistake.

It’s that pride in your work and the desire to get things right the first time that seems to be missing from many people’s writing. You don’t need to be able to write like Oscar Wilde but being able to put together something like a CV which reads well and has good spelling and grammar shouldn’t be out of the bounds of expectation. First impressions count, and if you can’t be bothered to get your CV right, you’re not going to get on the good side of any employer.

Another corporate comms post from elsewhere…

I’m back to being an infrequent blogger, at least, for my own purposes I am. For work however, I’m a lot more on it!

I posted earlier this week on our work blog about Hyundai’s recent ill-advised advertising campaign, featuring possibly the worst idea in the history of bad ideas, a suicide joke.

You can check it out here: When ‘shock advertising’ goes too far http://sparkcomms.co.uk/wp/index.php/2013/04/when-shock-advertising-goes-too-far/