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Language Rules – To Follow Or Not?

Proper grammar, consistent spelling, it is said, makes for better understanding of the written word. But is that always true? Probably not, particularly if you take a longish view. Language is always changing – a good thing, I think.

After all we really don’t have much use for buggy whips and a great deal of use for computer terms these days. And now there’s texting – all the rules are thrown out in favor of fewer keystrokes, and the kids seem to have no trouble understanding. The 140 characters allowed by twitter also throws all rules but that one out the window it seems.




We all know people who are bothered by this sort of change, and yet in this video author Stephen Fry argues for flexibility.

Henry Churchyard has put together a page of Jane Austen and other famous authors not following the rulesThe page also makes a good case for the use of the singular ‘their’ which I love because it facilitates gender neutral language.

And E.B. White talks about the real responsibility of a writer, which isn’t hard and fast adherence to rules.

Leon Stirling, Creative Director  of Compelling Concepts posted the Fry video in a LinkedIN group which kicked off a discussion.

So now it’s your turn. How do you feel about changes in language? How important is it, do you think, to stick to the rules. When, if ever, is there a time to break those rules in your writing.




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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    BTW, Anne, Taylor Mali has done a number of skillful kinetic typography videos. The timing is great. Maybe start with this one, if you haven’t seen it yet:

    http://www.blinkx.com/watch-video/the-the-impotence-of-proofreading-kinetic-typography/-oR7xdF7DRmVf1UYGe257g

  • jorgekafkazar

    I often turn off the sound on bad videos and just watch the action. This is the first one where I got rid of the pointless and distracting action as soon as I could and just listened. I now regret having done even that. The whole thing is just a judgmental, anti-pedantic rant, an overly lengthy statement to the effect that “We have nothing to get pedantic about today but pedantry, itself. Oh, dear!” English works fine as it stands. If it ain’t broke, don’t take it to the vet.

    • Jorge! I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it!

      • jorgekafkazar

        Well, Anne, I enjoyed not enjoying it. As Cervantes said, “There is no book so bad that something good can not be found in it.” That should surely apply to videos and other works. It’s all a matter of opinion, anyway.

        I was inspired to write my three-act play after seeing a work on the stage in Santa Barbara that was so bad I figured I couldn’t possibly do anything worse. I’ve gotten a lot of fun out of that thing in SB. It was called “Turnip Family Secrets,” by the way. I often try to include the word ‘turnip’ into other works.

        • Jorge, it sometimes scares me that I think I understand what you say 😉

  • Hi Anne,

    Interesting food for thought. I am also particularly fond of the singular their, though I feel that English really ought to have a better gender neutral pronoun than that. Perhaps I should invent one, what do you think?

    ~Dianna
    Dianna L. Gunn recently posted..Welcome to the DabblerMy Profile

    • Yes, by all means invent one, Dianna and let’s see what we can get started.

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