Fringe Box



Claire’s Column – Simon Heffer At The Guildford Book Festival

Published on: 18 Oct, 2014
Updated on: 18 Oct, 2014

In this regular column – a must-read for all those interested in Guildford business – Claire Dee embraces author Simon Heffer’s views on preserving good English.

Claire Dee

Claire Dee

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Guildford Book Festival and the line-up has been, as always, impressive. From BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr, to cricketing legend Kevin Pietersen, and our very own Guildford-based best-selling novelist Adele Parks.

So much choice and so little time; who then to choose?

As a businesswoman in the world of words and an ardent fan of the English language, it had to be national journalist and author Simon Heffer talking about his latest book Simply English: An A to Z of Avoidable Errors.

Having read English at Cambridge, and worked for around 30 years in Fleet Street holding senior positions on the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, Simon Heffer is well qualified to discuss the English language and its many idiosyncrasies and anomalies. Which he did well and with good humour!

His hour-long talk included anecdotes from his career and insights into his family life, all perfectly linked to the misuse and abuse of our beautiful prose: “I object when a word is willfully misused…it’s an act of violence to the English language.”

The running theme throughout and his views were crystal clear and echoed those I regularly share with my clients and business associates – evolution of the English language is acceptable; poor use of the English language is not.

Why? Because evolution is key to survival and a sign of the times, whereas poor use confuses, alters meaning and lacks clarity.

For example, he quoted a national sports reporter using the word ‘flaunt’ (to display) when referring to a player ‘flaunting the rules’, when the rules were actually being ‘flouted’ (disregarded).

And as for shoddy spelling, when I asked him what was the most horrendous spelling faux pas he had seen in his long career he recalled the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of pubic affairs – which reminded me of a highly important document I edited for a senior business person (thankfully before they sent it to their client) discussing at length the future of the pubic sector. Never has a keen eye for detail and the correct use of English been so hugely appreciated…

Simply English is described as an entertaining and supremely useful A–Z guide to frequent errors, common misunderstandings and stylistic howlers, and is a reference book all good writers should have on their desk.

Claire Dee runs her own communications consultancy near Guildford, and is an active member of the local business community including sitting on the Surrey Chambers of Commerce Council and the Institute of Directors Surrey Committee. To learn more visit

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