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Sir Ernest Gowers (Sir Ernest Arthur Gowers) Biography

(1880–1966), (Sir Ernest Arthur Gowers), Plain Words: A Guide to the Use of English

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain

British civil servant and grammarian, born in London, educated at Clare College, Cambridge. In 1902 he entered the Civil Service, where he rose to become Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue. Plain Words: A Guide to the Use of English (1948) was written at the suggestion of Sir Edward Bridges, the Head of the Civil Service, who admired the clarity of expression Gowers commanded. It was reprinted together with the subsequent ABC of Plain Words (1951) as The Complete Plain Words in 1954. The books remain invaluable for their emphasis on brevity and precision as cardinal virtues in the writing of factual matter in English. In 1965 Gowers produced a revised edition of H. W. Fowler's Modern English Usage, applying his principles of clarification to some entries and adding articles on such topics as ‘abstractitis’, ‘officialese’, and ‘sociologese’. His other publications include A Life for a Life? (1956), an influential work arising from his chairmanship of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, from which he emerged a convinced abolitionist.

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