Friday, 4 September 2009

Farewell to Keith Waterhouse 1929-2009

Today is a sad day for all of us who care about the English language, as Keith Waterhouse has died.

Most of the tributes to him are likely to focus on Billy Liar and Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, which is fair enough, as both are modern classics.

But as someone who works as a journalist, I wish to highlight Waterhouse's contribution in that area. His book Waterhouse on Newspaper Style should be required reading for all journalists as it is a lively and thought-provoking look at the way we use language. I would also recommend it to non-journalists who have a passion for using words correctly and with flair.

Waterhouse's columns for the Daily Mirror and latterly the Daily Mail were among the best bits in both papers. I rarely read the Mail, but if I did and it had one of Waterhouse's columns in, I would savour every word, as there would always be some turn of phrase which surprised or delighted. He always wrote with elegance and wit, so you could appreciate what he was saying even if you disagreed with every word.

And Waterhouse will always be a hero for his relentless campaign to improve standards of English in this country. I support the aims of his Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe. He also delighted in pricking official jargon and pomposity.

I hope you will all join me in raising a glass to one of the finest writers of his generation.

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