Dear Dr Deadline 07-03-03

Dear Dr Deadline,

I’m a section editor of a weekly magazine. One of my staff members has a real problem with timekeeping, often arriving at the office up to an hour after most of his colleagues and seldom staying around, even when the rest of us work late. The problem is that he’s by far my most talented team member, producing a better quality and quantity of work than the others, even in the shorter time he’s there. I’ve tried to make a few light-hearted comments to alert him to the resentment that some others on the desk are feeling, but so far it’s had no effect. Should I enforce a more rigid discipline on him?

Troubled, East Mids

Dear Troubled,

The phrase that jumps out at me here is “even when the rest of us work late”. This makes me a little suspicious that a late-working culture may have been allowed to develop in your organisation and that your colleagues are annoyed with the one member of the team who doesn’t accept it. There’s an increasingly influential movement, backed with government action, that insists on employers ensuring their staff are able to balance their work and living arrangements fairly. So perhaps it’s you who need to examine your working methods. It’s a different matter, though, if the maverick member is not fulfilling his contractual obligations in terms of the hours he works. If that’s the case, then you have what might be termed the Beckham Dilemma: is your star player more important than the harmony of the rest of the team? Only you can decide.

Dear Dr Deadline,

I’m a little embarrassed to ask you this because it’s something I really should have learned at school, but can you explain when I should use a semi-colon? And is it a punctuation mark that I can get away without ever actually having to use?

Dear embarrassed,

Dr D feels slightly traitorous for saying so, but yes, you could get through the rest of your career without ever having to pluck this particular item from your grammatical toolbox. But it’s a tool that can finish certain jobs much more neatly than other tools. A good way to think of a semi-colon is somewhere between comma and full-stop, linking those parts of a sentence that are too closely connected to be made into separate sentences. To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Got any questions for Dr Deadline? Or do you disagree with his advice? E-mail him on doctordeadline@pressgazette.co.uk

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