Take a Memo, Pam

Dear Pam Bradford, County Clerk for Van Buren County, Arkansas,
I just stumbled across the memo you sent on Tuesday to all of the county clerks across Arkansas urging them to join you in your campaign to refuse to issue marriage licences to gay couples, despite the Supreme Court telling you that you must. Here’s the memo:

I must say it’s mighty brave of you, Pam, to be taking on the Supreme Court of the United States like this. Some people in your position would be cowed by the intellectual might of a group of highly-educated, well-respected, experienced judges and might believe that as a mere county clerk they did not really have the right or authority to turn around and refuse to obey the court’s rulings.

And some people in your position would feel that claiming that their religious beliefs allowed them to disobey the law of the land might make them look a bit backward or possibly totally ridiculous. But not you Pam. You don’t let looking totally ridiculous stand in your way.

I’m sure that your call to arms (by which I mean the memo above) will have a huge impact across your state and galvanise the county clerks of Arkansas to join you in your boycott of gay marriage licence issuing. However, as an experienced English teacher, I think I’ve noticed a couple of typos that, if corrected, would make your message clearer. Because, let’s face it, we don’t want you looking any more ridiculous than you already do by releasing a poorly punctuated, ungrammatical memo, do we. Here are the couple of typos I’ve noticed:

1. You’ve accidentally capitalised the words “Law”, “Religious”, “County” and “Clerk”. As you know, only proper nouns (such as Pam Bradford and the Gay Christian Network) take capital letters. You might want to correct this as it’s Such An Easy Typo To Make But Always Makes The Writer Look A Little Stupid.

2. You’ve also accidentally put an apostrophe into your (incorrectly-capitalised) “County Clerk’s”. This is a common mistake (or typo in your case). Apostrophes are used for possession (as in “Pam’s greatest fear is that the world will collapse if she issues a gay marriage licence”) or for omission (as in “Pam doesn’t have to obey laws because she rocks”). When you use “County Clerk’s” in the fourth line it is neither a case of possession nor omission so no apostrophe is needed.

3. In the 7th and 8th lines you write: “…the US Supreme Court has overstepped their boundaries”. Technically (and I’m just nitpicking, Pam), “court” is a singular noun meaning a body of people so it would be overstepping “its” boundaries, not “their” boundaries.

4. In the 9th line, you write: “Arkansans vote against same sex marriage. I will uphold the Law of Arkansas.” Here you’ve used the present tense for the verb “vote”. If it is actually the case that Arkansans are asked to vote on same sex marriage on a regular basis and that they consistently vote against it, then the present tense is fine. If not, and it’s actually the case that they were asked to vote on it once, in the past, then the past tense was what you were looking for.

5. My final point is a little bit embarrassing, but I think I must raise it as it is rather pertinent to your entire message. In line 6 you write: “As County Clerk, I, nor the County Clerk’s office will be issuing same sex marriage license.” The omission of the word “neither” (as in “neither I nor the County Clerk’s office will be issuing…”) makes the sentence read a little bit as though you will be issuing same sex marriage licences, which is, in fact, the total opposite of what you are trying to say. In order to not look in the least bit ridiculous and being as the crux of your entire message is that you are reacting negatively to the legalisation of same sex marriage, you might want to include all of the necessary negative words in this key sentence.

And that’s it, Pam, my correction of the accidental typos in your memo. I hope you don’t mind me sending them to you like this. I just want you to be able to get your message out there as clearly as possible so that no-one can hold you up to ridicule. Well, at least not for the quality of your grammar and punctuation.

Good luck with the campaign. When the courts come knocking and tell you that you’re not actually allowed to refuse to do your job for religious reasons, feel free to ping me your letter of resignation and I’ll proof-read it for you.

Kindest regards,

R