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For the love of pedantry

By Tom Chatfield  

As the Prospect postbag testifies, a 200-word article containing a misspelt proper noun can often generate more correspondence than a 5,000-word essay on tax, terrorism or cultural crises (to pick three fairly arbitrary “big” topics). Indeed, small problems are often a more passionate business than large ones—partly because worries like global warming inspire a more implacable dread than, say, typos in the Guardian. Psychologically and pragmatically, it’s more tolerable to be locally peeved than to fill a day with bottomless agonising.

There are also the questions of ownership and certainty. Things like political and environmental crises (especially when they are…

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