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Lynn Truss, step aside.  Ros Dodd is gunning for your title as Britain’s number one literary pedant.

According to a Confederation of British Industry survey published last week, more than a third of employers are anxious about their staff’s ability to read, write and add up correctly.

Bosses complain that workers cannot construct properly spelt sentences with accurate grammar or spot simple maths errors.

Well, no surprise there. What is surprising is that employers, apparently, are genuinely bothered about their staff’s inability to string together a coherent sentence.

As someone who makes a living from writing, I am increasingly depressed by what seems like a wholesale disregard of the English language. No one – not even otherwise hugely professional outfits – seems to give a monkey’s whether a letter or a report is grammatically accurate or not: all manner of organisations put out literature that is littered with spelling or punctuation errors, or both.

Particularly dispiriting examples emanate, on a regular basis, from my daughter’s school (yes, a school, the one place you’d expect the highest level of literacy to flourish).

Here’s a segment from a letter informing parents about impending swimming lessons: “Children will need a towel and a swimming costume in waterproof bag, should be dressed in clothes, which are easy for them to take on and off, and no jewellery should be worn. It would be extremely helpful if your child practices drying and dressing themselves after taking a bath or shower.”

Did you spot the errors? There is a comma after “clothes” which shouldn’t be there and “practices” is spelt wrongly: as it’s a verb, it should be “practises”.

My husband remonstrates with me for not charging “what you’re worth” when I’m quoting for writing jobs, but the sad fact is that I can’t charge “what I’m worth” because few people rate my skills.

If I was an IT whizz or a financial consultant of some kind, I would be able to charge the Earth, but as a humble wordsmith I am increasingly aware that even top-notch companies think they can muddle through, linguistically, and not risk a drop-off in trade.

It seems that too many people know little about grammar and spelling and care even less – whether they are the purveyor or the recipient of sloppily written prose.

I mind this descent into linguistic anarchy not only because it robs me of potential work, but also because it belittles the beauty of the English language.

British industry might carp on about employees’ inability to write properly, but if companies really care about spelling and punctuation, they should consider putting some of their profits into projects that ensure schools know how to use an apostrophe.

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