Monday, February 27, 2006

Style Lesson 2
Writing should not be hampered by "correctness." If one spends too much time worrying about grammatical correctness, one's writing will suffer. There are three rules: real rules, the rules of Standard English, and Folklore. Real rules are ones that natural speakers don't have to think about, for example, articles never precede nouns. Rules of Standard English emphasize the Standard English dialect over other dialects. Folklore rules are invented by grammarians, and should not be strictly adhered to.
These invented rules are classified as folklore rules and elegant options. Folklore rules forbid one to use less instead of fewer or use "that" for which. The general rule one should go by is that if competent writers break these folklore rules, then it is acceptable to do so. Elegant options forbid one to split infitives or end a sentence with a preposition. These rules should only be observed when doing very formal writing. Hobgoblins are items that receive a lot of attention, like using hopefully instead of "I hope" and using like instead of as.
There are also words that are misused. For example, an injury can be aggravated, but not a person, and disinterested means neutral, not uninterested. Pronouns and their referents pose a problem with no real solution, although it is possible that in the future "they" will become correct, versus he, she, or s/he. Writers should lean the difference between folklore and real rules so that that their writing won't be limited needlessly.


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