Time Wasters

John McIntyre, copy editor for the Baltimore Sun, enumerates the various zombie rules that some people still cling to. There are no surprises on the list, but it’s nice to see them all listed all together. If he missed any, I can’t think of what they might be.

I’m pleased that I’m guilty of enforcing only one of these rules with my students: “Insisting on who for people, that for animals and objects.” I’ve gotten better at letting it slide, but it still irks the hell out of me whenever I see it, and the urge to pick up the blue pencil is a strong one.

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The Problem With Peevery

Kory Stamper of the Harmless Drudgery blog points out the problems with correcting the grammar of others.

NBC Pronunciation Guide

Ben Trawick-Smith of the Dialect Blog has found a copy of The NBC Handbook of Pronunciation from over fifty years ago. It’s an interesting nugget. I didn’t know that American broadcasters had such guides, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

Why Eminem is one of the most impressive lyricists ever

The title of this YouTube video is rather hyperbolic, but it makes a pretty persuasive case and gives a succinct lesson in how rhyme works in poetry along the way.

(Tip o’ the hat to Elisa Tersigni)

Re-examining Orwell

Ed Smith over at the New Statesman has a rather good criticism of Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language.” Orwell’s essay is often trotted out as justification for grammatical prescriptivism, probably because of the six simple rules for good writing that Orwell promulgates. It is only second to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style in this regard. Of course, neither Orwell or the prescriptivists realize that Orwell himself runs roughshod over his rule #4, “Never use the passive where you can use the active.” In the essay Orwell uses the passive voice in about twenty percent of his sentences, while most writers of his era used it in only about ten percent. It seems that Orwell (Strunk and White, too, but that’s another story) didn’t know what the passive voice is, or at least wasn’t very good at spotting it in his own writing.

But Smith skips the grammatical skirmishes and drives a knife into the heart of Orwell’s argument that plain English inherently makes for clearer communication:

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