Thursday, January 28, 2016

An ad by Pat's Schoolhouse

This ad by Pat's Schoolhouse which I found in my letter box this evening may very well give the wrong impression of the school.

Its very first sentence is shockingly illiterate for a school that presumably teaches English. Of course I may be wrong - I have no idea what Pat's Schoolhouse teaches. But even if the school doesn't teach English, it has no excuse printing an ad in English that has such a glaring error. And the ad only has three sentences!  This is what it says:
Pat's Schoolhouse provides a distinctly unique education for over 28 years and until today, it's what makes us stand out.
First, I'll put aside the pedantic squabble as to whether what is unique must necessarily be distinct - I'm perfectly fine even if someone writes 'completely unique' and I'm utterly sick of this century-old usage debate which I think is quite needless. But the use of the simple present is wrong by all accounts. It should read, 'Pat's Schoolhouse has been providing...'. This is elementary English grammar which all Primary 2 kids are familiar with.

I must say this is a huge embarrassment for me; I just declared in my blog post this morning that nobody in Singapore except the Speak Good English Movement stumbled over simple tenses. But of course it's always possible that the person in Pat's Schoolhouse who composed that erroneous sentence in the ad learnt his tenses from the Movement's notorious grammar book about which I've written in great detail. If you would like to see some of these blog posts, please visit the complete list of all my blog posts on the language.

I can see why it's important for a school not to make silly grammatical errors. The ad which is printed in colour on hard cardboard looks expensive. The cover says, 'Are you seeking a DIFFERENT education?' Getting the tense in that sentence wrong somewhat mars the entire ad. As a parent myself, I'd probably wonder what kind of 'different education' my kids would get if the school could not even get the first sentence right in an ad that had only three sentences. But this should not in any way cast any aspersion on Pat's Schoolhouse's teaching methods. It only means their marketing manager made an error in one sentence. That's all. I remember many years ago, Singapore Management University (SMU) published an ad about their first batch of graduates in the Straits Times and just like Pat's Schoolhouse's ad, it had only three sentences and one of them had a grammatical error. I wrote to the Straits Times which of course refused to publish my letter. Straits Times is notorious for refusing to publish letters on grammar that might embarrass either their journalists or their advertisers. And that was before the age of the blog.

Schools should take more care when preparing an ad. An expensive promotion exercise can be ruined by language that smacks of illiteracy.

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