Oct 12, 2012

Come in Spinner: the perpendicular pronoun in business and politics

The lengths that politicians and business leaders will go to convey leadership and responsibility can mean some very irritating language choices, writes Noel Turnbull.

Noel Turnbull

Adjunct professor of media and communications at RMIT University.

Reflective politicians and managers often struggle with when to use the perpendicular personal pronoun and when to use collective ones. Collective pronouns can be great for conveying teamwork and/or sharing the blame around. The perpendicular pronoun is supposedly indicative of leadership and responsibility although it can also be very, very irritating.

The problem is illustrated by the forthcoming Melbourne lord mayoral election where the incumbent, Robert Doyle, is standing again. Doyle was a former Victorian Liberal opposition leader buried by Steve Bracks in a landslide. He has now been lord mayor for one term and may be re-elected as the ALP is running dead in this contest.

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