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No grammar, no tools

IF Philip Pullman thinks grammar is so unimportant, how come the first half of his article is all about the grammar of the literacy strategy document?

He found 72 verbs, a suspect use of the noun "quality" and the verb "support" used in a grammatical pattern not attested outside the Department for Education and Skills.

He is right, and obviously knows about grammar. He is also pretty good at using it - he says he fixes the grammar at page-proof stage.

Lucky him - most of us struggle with it at every stage, and there cannot be many key stage 3 pupils with his skills. What is the point of having a wonderful idea if you can't put it into words? By all means aim at inspiration, but do not forget the need for high-quality tools.

Richard Hudson Phonetics and linguistics University College London Gower Street Bloomsbury London WC1E

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