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Spelling, punctuation and grammar

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BBC Radio 4 - The 'Apostrophiser' Pedants have their uses, but why such fury over apostrophes? Whatever persuaded Bristol’s self-styled “grammar vigilante” to be interviewed by Radio 4, subsequent public acclaim has presumably justified the risk of prosecution for criminal damage.

Pedants have their uses, but why such fury over apostrophes?

For anyone who missed the show, this anonymous individual has spent the past 13 years defacing shop signs under cover of darkness. His excuse is that he is improving them, by removing redundant apostrophes and supplying missing ones, using a two-pronged “apostrophiser” he designed for that purpose. True, he had his critics, even within the pedant community. For some, it spoiled the story that the Bristol man could not be called a grammar vigilante, being so egregiously in the wrong. What grammar pedants and fashion victims have in common.

Language pedants who take pleasure in policing other people’s use of grammar often have an air of respectability about them, but it’s usually a sheen hiding something more pernicious.

What grammar pedants and fashion victims have in common

Rather than actual rules of language, pedantry deals in half-truths, conventions and arbitrary shibboleths which are too often used to embarrass or undermine. Remember this if you get pounced upon by a pedant on National Grammar Day. People often liken the idea of wearing smart clothes to a job interview with the idea of using a particular type of “smart” or formal language. But this analogy can go further: I would argue that many of the conventions that so upset the language pedants (split infinitives or insisting on “whom”) are often no less arbitrary than fashion conventions.

If your shoes and handbag don’t match, both items will still be entirely practical. A Word, Please: He or she may be happier with 'they' - Glendale News-Press. Dear Ms Morgan: in grammar there isn’t always one right answer. Steven Pinker: 'Many of the alleged rules of writing are actually superstitions' People often ask me why I followed my 2011 book on the history of violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, with a writing style manual.

Steven Pinker: 'Many of the alleged rules of writing are actually superstitions'

I like to say that after having written 800 pages on torture, rape, world war, and genocide, it was time to take on some really controversial topics like fused participles, dangling modifiers, and the serial comma. It’s not much of an exaggeration. After two decades of writing popular books and articles about language, I’ve learned that people have strong opinions on the quality of writing today, with almost everyone finding it deplorable. Steven Pinker: Using Grammar as a Tool, Not as a Weapon. Steven Pinker: 10 'grammar rules' it's OK to break (sometimes) Among the many challenges of writing is dealing with rules of correct usage: whether to worry about split infinitives, fused participles, and the meanings of words such as "fortuitous", "decimate" and "comprise".

Steven Pinker: 10 'grammar rules' it's OK to break (sometimes)

Supposedly a writer has to choose between two radically different approaches to these rules. Prescriptivists prescribe how language ought to be used. They uphold standards of excellence and a respect for the best of our civilisation, and are a bulwark against relativism, vulgar populism and the dumbing down of literate culture. Descriptivists describe how language actually is used. They believe that the rules of correct usage are nothing more than the secret handshake of the ruling class, designed to keep the masses in their place. Pronouns and the march of gender diversity. Strictly English: Part one. One should take care in using the verb contradict.

Strictly English: Part one

They Say You Should Break This Grammar Rule. Yesterday, I got into a bit of a discussion in the comments section over the use of the singular “they.”

They Say You Should Break This Grammar Rule

People go into a frenzy whenever you use it, and when you challenge the rule, they cling to it as if their very position in the American Society of Grammar Pedants depended upon it. Let me make my position clear: In situations with a generic singular antecedent, "they" is not OK. It is preferable. The attempted abolition of singular "they" was a hypercolossal blunder by 18th- and 19th-century fusspots who thought grammar should follow the same sort of simple rules as a steam engine, that Latin and Greek grammars were a good model for English diction, and that in public-facing activity, men absorbed the women in their circle like a sort of social sponge.

We should stop perpetuating their error. Apostrophe now: Bad grammar and the people who hate it. 13 May 2013Last updated at 04:58 ET By Tom de Castella BBC News Magazine Children are again to be subject to a rigorous examination in grammar.

Apostrophe now: Bad grammar and the people who hate it

But why does it make adults so cross when other adults break the rules? A new grammar and spelling test arrives in primary schools in England this week. Spelling it out: is it time English speakers loosened up? I can’t remember exactly how often spelling tests happened at school – maybe every week or two – but I do remember I looked forward to them.

Spelling it out: is it time English speakers loosened up?

We’d be tested, I’d do well, then I’d feel good about myself. Children who weren’t good at spelling would feel bad about themselves. Jeremy Paxman and the truth of the Apostrophe. There Is No ‘Proper English’ It’s a perpetual lament: The purity of the English language is under assault.

There Is No ‘Proper English’

These days we are told that our ever-texting teenagers can’t express themselves in grammatical sentences. The media delight in publicizing ostensibly incorrect usage. A few weeks ago, pundits and columnists lauded a Wikipedia editor in San Jose, Calif., who had rooted out and changed no fewer than 47,000 instances where contributors to the online encyclopedia had written “comprised of” rather than “composed of.” Does anyone doubt that our mother tongue is in deep decline? Think Grammar Doesn't Matter? It Could Be Holding You Back From a Promotion  Quality writing can help you get ahead in your career, but the opposite is also true.

Think Grammar Doesn't Matter? It Could Be Holding You Back From a Promotion 

If you want to get ahead in the workplace, change careers, or find a job, then it's time to dust off that dictionary, thumb through your thesaurus, and get a grip on grammar. Grammarly reviewed 100 LinkedIn profiles of native English-speakers in the consumer packaged goods industry. Each of the professionals we looked at worked for no more than three employers over the first 10 years of their career. Half were promoted to director-level or above within those 10 years, and the other half were not.

We discovered a direct link between the number of grammar and spelling errors in a profile and the trajectory of that person's career. Professionals whose profiles contained fewer mistakes also achieved higher positions. Why does writing have such a huge impact on your career? It all comes down to the impression you make. How to Improve Your Grammar Sounds pretty grim, right? Modern tribes: the grammar pedant. Fewer. Not less, F-E-W-E-R. Because it matters – God, this is why they should bring back grammar lessons. Fewer is for things you count, less is for, well, things you don’t count.

Like mud. Plain English Campaign.