Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Policing the Grammar Police

You know, until recently, I hadn't realized how much grammar-related trauma and stress had been inflicted on me by teachers - from grade school to grad school. I think what most bugs is that the rules are often so inconsistent. One teacher insists that the serial comma is an absolute necessity (use it in her class OR ELSE!), while another is all "serial comma? Pshaw!"

Thank goodness, then, for linguist Geoffrey Pullum, who eviscerates Strunk and White's Elements of Style (the bane of many a student's academic career) in a recent piece written for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Sample excerpt:

most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian.

HALLELUJAH! It's nice to know I've had rules made by "grammatical incompetents" shoved down my throat for the last 20+ years. It's even better knowing I can cite this handy analysis the next time someone tries to impose S&W on me.

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