Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove is upsetting British civil servants because he keeps “patronising” them over their writing style and grammar in official documents.
According to a report by the Independent newspaper, Gove posted instructions on the Ministry of Justice intranet, entitled “Ministerial Correspondence Preferences,” last month which outlines what words or phrases to use and to not use. This is an update from his 2013 “10 golden rules” email he sent to government employees when he was education secretary, the Independent said.
One Whitehall source told the Independent: “It’s slightly patronising. It does feel like the sort of thing someone would do when they have too much time on their hands.”
Here are some examples, as outlined by the Independent, of what civil servants must make sure they have:
- Not written “I am sorry to hear”, but “I am sorry to read” instead.
- Not used “doesn’t”, “don’t”, “aren’t”, and so on, but spelt out both words.
- Not written that they “met with” someone (just “met”).
- Not written “however” at the beginning of a sentence (or any words such as “therefore”, “yet”, “also”, “although”), but put it after the verb: “There are, however, many options”.
Gove also warned officials to never use the word “impact” as a verb.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman declined to comment.
However, “a departmental insider” told the Independent: “When Michael Gove arrived at the MoJ, he was asked what his preferences were for correspondence and he passed on the same advice he had given while at the Department for Education. The DfE guidance has been modified for MoJ. It’s not a story — ministers are entitled to advise officials on their preferred writing style and most do.”
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