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Can’t we have a literate mayor?

Mistakes on Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell’s Facebook campaign page are troubling.

On the Facebook campaign page for Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, we can read this in the “About” section:

“Since 2015, Mayor Longwell has boldly lead Wichita into it’s bright, better future. Undeterred by status quo or fear of change, he’s helped poise Wichita to grab its limitless opportunity and prepare to take its place among the top cities in America.” 1

I see three errors or mistakes. First, an explanation from Professor Paul Brians:

lead / led
When you’re hit over the head, the instrument could be a “lead” pipe. But when it’s a verb, “lead” is the present and “led” is the past tense. The problem is that the past tense is pronounced exactly like the above-mentioned plumbing material (“plumb” comes from a word meaning “lead”), so people confuse the two. In a sentence like “She led us to the scene of the crime,” always use the three-letter spelling. 2

Then, an everyday error along with two correct uses of the same word:

Its, without an apostrophe, is the possessive of the pronoun it. It’s, with an apostrophe, is a contraction of it is or it has. If you’re not sure which spelling to use, try replacing it with it is or it has. If neither of those phrases works in its place, then its is the word you’re looking for. 3

Finally, poise is used in an incorrect, or at least uncommon, way. A better word would be positioned, as in he’s helped positioned Wichita.

(It had been worse. At one time this Facebook page said Longwell was elected mayor in 2014. 4 That was fixed after someone called attention to it.)

Is this important? Absolutely. Either the mayor or his campaign surrogates made several mistakes in the basic use of language, mistakes that we expect high school students to recognize.

Errors like these that stand for months indicate carelessness. Didn’t the mayor or someone with the campaign proofread this paragraph? Were they not capable of recognizing these mistakes? Didn’t any of the mayor’s supporters call attention to this?

Isn’t anyone worried about the impression of Wichita this creates?


Notes

  1. Facebook. Mayor Jeff Longwell for Reelection. Available at https://www.facebook.com/mayorjefflongwellwichita/.
  2. Paul Brians. Introduction to Common Errors in English Usage. https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/19/lead-led/.
  3. Grammarist, https://grammarist.com/spelling/its-its/.
  4. See https://twitter.com/bob_weeks/status/1133145704996773890.
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One Comment

  1. Jason July 30, 2019

    It seems to be a harsh claim that someone who makes grammatical errors is not literate. I would concede that it does show a degree of carelessness though. If a mastery of the English language is not a criteria for voters in a presidential election, I doubt it will move the needle for the Wichita mayoral one.

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