When I was young and still impressionable, my father often quoted Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1965 edition) to me verbatim. His favourite section tickled his sense of humour and concerned split infinitives. It began as follows:

“The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish.”

Split infinitives are more accepted these days, and I note the shiny 2004 edition of ‘Fowler’ that I now also own has dropped this enjoyable approach to the topic.

Fowler (1965) continued on to say – much to Dad’s delight – that group 1 above “are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes”.

As an editor of all things business, from tenders to blogs to packaging, and one who is doing a fair amount of marketing to launch hit Send onto the local and (da-daaa) international stage, I keep Fowler in the forefront of my mind. I think his dissertation on split infinitives can usefully be edited (ha ha, my prerogative?) to refer to good English. Here we go:

“The English-speaking business market may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what good English is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; … and (5) those who know and distinguish.”

I imagine for hit Send’s marketing purposes that group 1 members are pretty much a lost cause: all the advertising, networking breakfasts and explaining in the world won’t persuade them that the difference between there, their and they’re does matter.

The proficient group 5 types might use our services when they are too busy to proofread themselves, and that of course applies to many corner-office dwellers.

But group 2 members – who do not write perfect prose, but do care very much and even worry about it – these are my so-called ‘target market’ for editing work. Actually Fowler called them ‘bogy-haunted creatures’ full of fear, which has a ring to it.

And so I say to the ‘bogy-haunted creatures’, fear is no fun to live with. Let us assuage it by transforming your draft words into something altogether polished, perfect and ready for you to… hit Send.