Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, March 8, 2010 8:17 pm

The Elements of Style: “Stupid grammar advice”

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , , ,

Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, which just turned 50, espouses some principles that are far more flexible than the book makes them appear, Geoffrey Pullum writes, and some that are just flat wrong.

I re-read the book every few years, and every time I do, something sticks with me that didn’t before, but I long ago realized that in writing, knowing the rules, while essential, is just a first step for advanced writers toward knowing when the rules can, and even should, be broken.

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  1. Another helpful test on written English is Christopher Lasch’s “Plain Style-A guide to written English”.
    The following quoted from “Freefall of the American University”:
    Originally, Lasch began by jotting down common errors he was finding while grading students’ papers, and as the list grew he began to wonder whether a compilation would be beneficial to his department to use as a guide for correcting papers. Not originally meant for publication, it was first photocopied for departmental use only.
    Distressed at his students’ growing inability to write cohesive sentences and support arguments in a logical fashion, he wrote to his father in 1985 “I am grading papers with the usual sense of futility. I keep simplifying my course in 20th century American history, but the students keep getting dumber faster than I can simplify it. Every year, the illiteracy gets worse.” (Lasch Papers).

    Has anything changed in that regard over the last 25 years?

    Comment by Jon Firebaugh — Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:43 pm @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  2. No idea. I think it was always pretty bad.

    Comment by Lex — Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:57 pm @ 1:57 pm | Reply

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