Sunday, March 26, 2006

To boldly get it wrong

With the government's plans for "functional skills" hitting the news agenda and claims that students will fail their GCSEs if they can't accurately use commas and apostrophes (see here for Guardian article on it and QCA's own report here), it's good to see someone else putting the other side of the debate in today's Observer.

Michael McCarthy argues that many of our so-called "rules" are redundant and that we should instead think about what's clear and practical when we communicate, rather than trying to follow such rules.
People get upset about split infinitives, prepositions ending sentences, speech habits such as saying 'dunno' and 'gonna', the greengrocer's apostrophe ('carrot's 30p a pound'), using a singular verb when logic demands a plural ('there's five boys in the band'), double negatives ('I haven't done nothing') and so on. Most of these don't matter as long as they're used in appropriate contexts.

It's an interesting and provocative approach, and one that contrasts with that of Lynne Truss and her followers. Although, is that deliberately dodgy grammar in the second to last paragraph?

Useful for:
ENA6 - Language Debates

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