Firstly, thanks to everyone for putting forward your suggestions about why the sign in yesterday’s post might annoy me.
Well done to the couple of you who spotted the capitalised People. I only noticed this typographical crime when I was uploading the picture to the site. As I’ve observed in a previous post, the urge to capitalise Important Words is common among Inexperienced Writers.
Some of you picked up on the nonsensical wording of “Voted by the people”, which I’d not even noticed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.
I think this odd phrase is closely related to the one thing that really, really annoys me about the sign. Surprisingly, none of you picked up on my chief source of annoyance.
Namely: why is it there?
Did Wollstonecraft live in this house? Work there? Die there? Write about it? (My knowledge of architecture is shaky but I would guess she was doing her writing, teaching and championing at least a century before it was built).
The plaque is an example of Southwark Council’s worthy attempt to create a democratic alternative to the much older and better-known blue plaque scheme, in which English Heritage decides who deserves their own commemorative little circle.
Importantly, though, the English Heritage signs always specify the connection between the person and the place. A typical sign on The May Fair Hotel in Stratton Street reads:
AMBROSE, Bert (c.1896-1971)
Dance Band Leader, lived and played here, 1927-1940
Without information like this, you’re left wondering what Wollstonecraft’s connection with this part of Southwark’s all about.
It’s a classic case of assuming too much knowledge on behalf of your reader, which is, again, a habit of inexperienced writers and something I’ve blogged about before.
Missing out vital information leaves the reader bemused and alienated. And that rather negates the inclusive aim of these people-voted plaques, don’t you think?