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Grammar Advice in the Age of Web 2.0: Introducing the new (and keeping the old) language authorities: A further item inviting contributions to the ‘Bridging the Unbridgeable’ project at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

  • Morana Lukač

When I launched an online survey last December with the aim of learning about people's practices of looking up usage advice, I anticipated that searching for answers to grammar questions would not differ considerably from what are currently most common practices in searching for any kind of information. The answers are, as a rule, simply looked up online. From a group of 189 respondents, among whom the majority were university-educated language professionals such as linguists, editors, journalists and translators, more than half reported that they preferred consulting online rather than printed sources. The respondents below the age of 25 who reported looking up usage advice in printed books were few and far between (11%). The question that can be consequently raised is what implications this finding has for the future of the printed usage advice literature, which includes usage guides, all-in-one reference books we are researching in the context of the Bridging the Unbridgeable project. What is more, the number of sources that are available on the Internet is growing exponentially, and we need to probe more deeply into the matter to ask which of the available sources are in fact consulted.

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Cotter, C. & Damaso, J. 2007. ‘Online dictionaries as emerging archives of contemporary usage and collaborative lexicography.’ Queen Mary's Occasional Papers Advancing Linguistics (OPALS). Online at <> (Accessed June 1, 2015).
Davies, M. 2008-. The Corpus of Contemporary American English: 520 million words, 1990 present. Online at <> (Accessed 28 February, 2016).
Lukač, M. forthcoming. ‘From usage guides to Wikipedia. Re-contextualizing the discourse on language use.’ Conference proceedings CLAVIER, Modena 6–8 November 2013.
The British National Corpus, version 3 (BNC XML Edition). 2007. Distributed by Oxford University Computing Services on behalf of the BNC Consortium. Online at <> (Accessed 28 February, 2016).
Winchester, S. 2003. The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
  • URL: /core/journals/english-today
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