The Coalition government has taken a severe credibility hit after switching its policy on Gonski school funding from “we support it” to “actually, we don’t support it” (AKA lying right before the election). Whatever your politics, it’s a textbook example of how being accurate with your language usage is important.
Picture: Getty Images
Here’s what Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne had to say about Gonski funding prior to this year’s election (via the Conversation):
You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.
Note: “your school”, a single entity.
And here’s another comment from Prime Minister Tony Abbott that emphasises single schools:
As far as I’m concerned, as far as Christopher Pyne is concerned, as far as the Coalition is concerned, we want to end the uncertainty by guaranteeing that no school will be worse off over the forward estimates period; we will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into; we will match the offers that Labor has made; we will make sure that no school is worse off.
But this is how Abbott explained the change of policy over the weekend:
I think Christopher said schools would get the same amount of money and schools — plural — will get the same amount of money.
Sorry, Tony, but that doesn’t fly. There is no sensible way of interpreting either quote that involves schools, collective. The sentence was “no school is worse off”. If you meant “schools”, you would have said “schools are not worse off”.
We spend a lot of time at Mind Your Language discussing very minor differences, often no more than a single letter. This example shows why that kind of fine-grained detail is important. If you want people to trust what you say, accuracy matters. (Update: the latest backflip on this issue suggests the Coalition agrees.)
Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.