04 August 2009

About about

Whatever you think about the new innovation investment fund that the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS), you can't admire their use of words. Take their latest announcement, Government’s Uk Innovation Investment Fund Takes Shape.

The press release does its job, but the "Notes to editors" perpetrate one of those crimes against English that can upset pedants. It says:

There are about 1,093 venture capital backed technology companies in the UK employing over 40,000 highly skilled people.
About 1,093? There really is no point in attaching 'about' to something that definitive. Either it is 1,093 or it is about 1,100.

There are several reason why 'about 1,093' doesn't make sense. The first is that the number is current for a very short period, until the next one comes along. Then there is the problem that the number was probably never really that accurate, at least not in terms of the official statistics, which are bound to miss one or two businesses.