Poor grammar spells the end for Line of Duty’s criminal ‘mastermind’

Written by Kate Wobschall


Poor grammar spells the end for Line of Duty

It was the most eagerly anticipated conclusion to a TV drama mystery since fans of Dallas found out who shot JR.

Almost 13 million viewers tuned into the series finale of Line of Duty to finally discover the identity of H – or the fourth man – with many anticipating plot twists, lots of action and perhaps even a fatal shooting or two thrown in for good measure.

And while some were left deflated by the ending – and Hastings’ failure to top the previous week’s now immortal utterance “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey” – I was secretly thrilled.

It was nothing to do with quality of the acting or the great one-liners though. I loved the fact that the bad guy was caught BECAUSE HE COULDN’T SPELL!!

For the uninitiated, the mysterious H spelled the word ‘definitely’ wrong in various communications over a number of years, a fact that didn’t escape the eagle eyes of the team at AC-12.

The blundering baddie’s insistence on spelling it ‘definately’ gave them a vital clue as to the identity of ‘H’ – and he wasn’t so much the criminal mastermind as just criminally poor at spelling.

Now I’m not suggesting that those who can’t spell or use basic grammar should be locked up and the key disposed of in a suitable manner, regardless of how tempting that may be. As a former newspaper sub-editor, if I had a pound for every time I’d corrected an ‘effect’ instead of ‘affect’ or a ‘would of’ instead of ‘would have’, I’d have been watching that episode of LoD from the luxury of my private yacht.

But it does illustrate how things can go awry as a result of bad SPAG – that’s spelling, punctuation and grammar, to Detective Superintendent Buckles. If only he’d used a spellcheck, or better still paid attention in his English lessons, he might have got away with it.

According to Grammarly, the most common grammatical mistakes include:

  1. The over-use of adverbs
  2. Too many prepositional phrases
  3. Run-on sentences
  4. The misuse of commas
  5. Tautology.

I’d add to that the misuse of apostrophes, bad spelling and the wrong use of ‘their / there / they’re’. It’s not rocket science, it’s basic stuff that’s taught in primary school but that people forget or just didn’t bother to learn properly in the first place.

What makes it worse is that people take to social media and advertise the fact that they can’t spell. I’ve unfriended people on Facebook for using could of, for cooking potato’s and for being aloud to do something. And who cares? They’re probably the same people who tried to stop me rubbing the extraneous apostrophe on the blackboard in the pub listing the special’s.

And while such errors are really annoying to grammar-obsessed pedants like yours truly, they can also be extremely expensive. In the US, back in 1988, an ad in the phone book highlighted the ‘erotic’ destinations on offer from one travel agency. Unfortunately, it should have read ‘exotic’; the agency owner lost 80 per cent of her business (her regular clients were primarily elderly) and sued for $10m.

More recently, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said she was appalled by the University of Hull’s decision to ask staff not to dock marks for spelling mistakes, insisting the move would result in “dumbing down standards”.

The university apparently believed requiring good written and spoken English could be seen as elitist and constituted barriers to learning for disadvantaged students. Which is all very well when you’re promoting your university as a role model of inclusivity; however, when you’re writing your CV or covering letter for your first job after uni, it’s probably best to steer clear of text speak or colloquialisms.

The same goes for website copy, social media posts and blogs. Check what you write, get someone else to read it and if you’re not sure, look it up. Better still, ask a professional to write it for you. We’ve put together award-winning campaigns for a huge range of clients and will make sure your copy is right first time.

After all, your customers won’t be impressed by the ‘affect’ your service may have, nor will they be rushing to take you up on your special offer’s. That much is definate.

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