Thursday, 11 March 2010

A Little Bit - Maybe

A student of English Literature at Cambridge University has contacted me to tell me I should use fewer qualifiers. I wish she’d said less qualifiers so I could have knocked her off her perch with grammar tips. But she didn’t. So I can only say that, if I possibly can, I will probably try quite hard to follow her advice, as far as it is feasible to do so.


  1. You absolutely, surely, really really must!

  2. I think one of the attractive features of the more sensitive writing in blogs is its very tentativeness. It's because one is always conscious of a potential rejoinder. At it's best it's a conversational rather than a declamatory form.

    After all, it's no fun having a chat with someone who proceeds via unqualified assertion. Perhaps your correspondent might take note?

  3. Sorry Ghostof, I didn't see your question until now: apparently qualifiers are words like 'possibly' 'quite' - the sorts of things that tone down assertions and make them more tentative, which is what they are taught at Cambridge not to do; or rather, I gather what the tutors are trying to persuade them to do is make up their minds, work out what they are really saying and say it. Probably makes some sense in that context (but I'm at it again, I realise - both 'probably' and 'some' are, I suspect [more qualifying] qualifiers in that sentence.)