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Old whine online: prescriptive grammar blogs on the Internet

Abstract

Prescriptive analyses of English grammar no doubt post-date the introduction of the printing press to England in 1476, but not by much. As soon as the dissemination of standards for written English became practicable, self-appointed experts working in every area from religion (Bishop Robert Lowth, for example) to science (including Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen) published their personal recommendations for improving the English language, and the tradition has flourished ever since, even after the advent of linguistics and descriptivism. Best sellers like TV newsman Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking (1974) and A Civil Tongue (1975), along with film and Broadway critic John Simon's Paradigms Lost (1980), have been followed by an array of more recent prescriptive mass-market guides for the grammatically unwashed, perhaps most entertaining among them, Lynne Truss's popular Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003), but also Dennis Baron's Guide to Home Language Repair (1994), Patricia O'Conner's Woe Is I (2003), Bill Walsh's Lapsing into a Comma (2000) and The Elephants of Style (2004), and June Casagrande's Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies (2006) and its encore Mortal Syntax (2008).

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Corresponding author
Email: dschaffer@msubillings.edu
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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
  • URL: /core/journals/english-today
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