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17:29 UK time, Thursday, 22 February 2007

With regard to the bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher, I've just seen pigeons in a new, positive light.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon

Hurray! I was starting to think I would never again hear the phrase "a Walter Mitty character", but it's back, more or less, in Fraudulent forensic expert jailed. And is there any (Life on Mars) significance in his having worked in Hyde?
Chris, Witney, UK

Ed in Clacton objects to sentences starting with “and” (Wednesday letters). It may not look right but there are times when its use is warranted. In the field of journalism it is an acceptable technique as it helps a story to flow more easily for readers. I've lost count of the number of times a retired school teacher has complained about poor grammar at my local paper after we used such wording. They don't seem to realise that we do it deliberately and not as the result of some failing in education (which is one of their favourite comments).
Phil, Angus, Scotland

Ed, sadly, the received wisdom these days is that it's perfectly acceptable - ask the Plain English Campaign. And what's more, it's also apparently acceptable to start sentences with "but", "yet", "or”, "for", "so" and "nor". Everything else seems to be going to the dogs, so why not our wonderful language? Hey ho, sic transit and all that.
Sue, London, UK

You can start any sentence you like with “and” if it makes sense. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction is a matter of style, not grammar, just like the split infinitive: they both occur naturally in speech so why not in writing? Just be clear; get your message across.
Hugh Sorrill, Coventry

There are many examples of sentences beginning with “and”.
“And the moral of this story is, don't believe everything you read in e-mails.”
“And they all lived happily ever after.”
My own favourite is “And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.”
Rory, Sutton Coldfield

In Clean comedy, Arthur Smith declares that "A well-placed swear word is a marvellous bit of grammar". I hate to be a pedant, but it's actually a marvellous bit of vocabulary.
Yep, killed that one.
Dave Green, Oxford, UK

I was most amused that, with Paper Monitor's request for small press conference attendances, someone recommended "Recent Developments in Ruminant Nutrition" (which synopsis actually states: "Particularly noticeable, have been the increased genetic merit of dairy cows in many countries" - sorry, I hadn't noticed), to find that customers (plural) who viewed this item also viewed... a small kitchen grill.
Basil Long, Newark Notts

Your caption competition tells me: "Comment Submission Error - your comment submission failed for the following reasons: You are not allowed to post comments." So it's a no-caption competition.
P Anghelides, Southampton, UK
MM note: Apologies to all affected. A sharp kick appears to have rectified this recurring bug. For now.

I liked your plan to uncover the Paper Monitor's gender, John (Wednesday letters), but thought you should know that the Gender Genie thought you were female!
Andrea, London, UK

According to Gender Genie, Wednesday’s correspondents are split thus: John Airey is female, as is Ed. Imogen is male, while John and David Dee are both female. Hmm, either Gender Genie isn't very good, or we have a bunch of impostors.
Sam, London

Re Weddings at 'lowest ever' level, I was interested to learn that "In 2005 only 2.4% of unmarried men tied the knot... For women, the marriage rate in 2005 was also down". This seems to imply some kind of correlation between the two sexes when it comes to weddings, a finding that many of us will be surprised by.
Tim Evans, Bristol, UK

Re What's the cost of e-mailing 1.8m people? What happens when 1.8m people who have received an e-mail from No 10 all hit Reply at the same time? "...And in related news the Government abandoned plans for nuclear power stations when it was found that the heat generated by No 10's e-mail server could be used to power the whole of London."
Adrian, London

The whole plane/child issue reminds me of a handy lecture I heard as a law student. Apparently, to commit the perfect murder you simply have to do the act where no country would have jurisdiction. You begin on a ship outside of any one country's territorial waters (the "high seas"), persuade your victim to jump into the water with you (no pushing, as then the country of nationality of the ship would have jurisdiction) and then murder them in the water. Of course, how you get back onto the boat and to safety is something else. As for the plane issue, the only real decider is the nationality of the parents. Even the nationality of the carriers is a red herring as most countries don't give you a passport simply for being born there.
Chris, Nazareth, Israel

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