Back to grammar basics – and the Rev Angela Tilby

Yesterday morning I caught the thought for the day on Radio 4’s Today programme. The Rev Angela Tilby started out about the powers of the new Supreme Court, but the rest of the thought was to do with the use of adjectives.  There is a bit in it about the use of  Holy Holy Holy in the Bible, but you can whizz past that if you aren’t religious.

It reminded me to go back to basics if I’m not sure of the purpose of a sentence or if I can’t see the bones for the froth. 

The Rev Angela ends with the injunction to ‘take a pencil and cut them(adjectives) out. Then you will see what’s really being said about places, people deeds and actions’. I like this advice – it’s what I was taught at school, but had lost sight of it.  

 To hear the peice, go to, then click on 1st October 09 or to read it, go to and search Angela Tilby, 1st October .

 The message hit home and sunk in as I have been editing recently.  After a while, a person can get wound up in knots and lose a sense of proportion.

As it has hit home, I’m writing this without using adjectives (apart from Holy Holy Holy, which doesn’t count.).

The Rev actually said  ‘blue pencil’ in the last sentence, but I applied rule no. 2 about adjectives to that and cut it out.

Rule 2 is that you look at every adjective you write and ask whether it has  a purpose and/or adds information. In this case and for the purpose of this blog, ‘blue’ doesn’t, so it’s out. It did in her piece, though, because a blue pencil was used to correct manuscripts by editors in the publishing industry before track changes software. So in the Rev’s piece, it added value by allusion to editing from an age when grammar was important.   

Now I’ve messed up – the last paragraph includes adjectives and rule 2 has had to be employed for ‘publishing’ and ‘track changes’ used adjectivally. ‘Important’ is a predicative adjective, so doesn’t count.

Good work, that  Rev. (Rule 2 applied here – this would be nonsense without ‘good’ )

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