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Chapter 2 correctness


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  • 1. Correctness
  • 2. Question of Obedience, Not Choice
  • 3. Real rules
  • 4. Basis of Authority?
    Standard forms of language originate in accidents of geography and economic power.
    Aye what are saeguid yourself
    Is not standard because Edinburgh was not the power center.
  • 5.
  • 6. Correctness as Unpredictability
    I know
    You know
    She knows
    We know
    You know
    They know
  • 7. I’m here, amn’t I?
    Ain’t I?
    Aren’t I?
  • 8. Three Kinds of Rules
    Real Rules
    Social Rules
    Folkloric Rules
  • 9. Real Rules
    Real rules define what makes English /English
    ARTICLES must precede nouns: the book
  • 10. Social Rules
    Social rules distinguish Standard English from nonstandard:
    He don’t have no money
    He doesn’t have any money
  • 11. Real, Social or Invented?
  • 12. Real, Social or Invented?
  • 13. Real, Social or Invented?
  • 14. Invented Rules
    Don’t split an infinitive
    Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
    Don’t use hopefully for I hope.
    Don’t use which for that
  • 15. Observing Rules Thoughtfully
    But if you try to obey all the rules all the time, you risk becoming so obsessed with rules that you tie yourself in knots. And sooner or later; you will impose those rules—real or not—on others.
  • 16. Two Kinds of Invented Rules
  • 17. Folklore
    The rules that most careful readers and writers ignore.
    Don’t begin sentences with “and” or “but”.
    Some insecure writers also think they should not begin a sentence with because.
  • 18. Quick Tip: Because
    When a because-clause introduces new information, as it usually does, it should not begin a sentence, but end it. But if the information is familiar, you should start the sentence with “since” rather than “because”. This is a question of style and not of rule.
  • 19. Folklore
    Use the RELATIVE pronoun “that”—not “which”—for restrictive clauses.
    The rule is relatively new (1906). Francis Fowler’s The King’s English (Oxford University Press).
  • 20. Use “fewer” with nouns you count, “less” with nouns you cannot.
    No one uses “fewer with mass nouns (fewer dirt) but educated writers often use “less with countable plural nouns (“less” resources).
  • 21. Use “fewer” and “less” in a sentence to describe the image below:
  • 22. Folklore
    Use “since” and “while” to refer only to time, not to mean “because” or “although”.
    Since asbestos is dangerous, it should be removed carefully.
    While we agree on a date, we disagree about the place.
  • 23. Here’s the Point
    If writers whom we judge to be competent regularly violate some alleged rule and most careful readers never notice, then the rule has no force. In those cases, it is not writers who should change their usage, but grammarians who should change their rules.
  • 24. Elegant Options
    These are rules that complement “real rules” but ones that no one notices when they are broken. They notice when they are followed because they sound self-consciously formal.
  • 25. Don’t split an infinitive.
    They wanted to slightly conceal the fact.
    They wanted to conceal slightly the fact.
  • 26. Use whom as the object of a verb or preposition.
    William Zinsser from Yale:
    Soon after you confront the matter of preserving your identity, another question will occur to you, “ Who am I writing for?”
    For “whom” am I writing?”
  • 27. Use a singular verb with “none” and “any”
    None of the reasons are sufficient.
    None of the reasons is sufficient.
  • 28. Elegant Options
    Under close scrutiny observe the rules. Ordinarily, they are ignored by careful writers, which is to say they are not rules at all but stylistic choices that create a slightly formal tone.
  • 29. Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.
  • 30. Hobgloblins
    Rules that for no apparent reason are zealously abused. Breaking these rules will not interfere with clarity or concision
  • 31. Never use “like” for “as” or “as if”
    These operations failed “like” the earlier ones did.
    These operations failed “as” the earlier ones did.
  • 32. Don’t use “hopefully” to mean “I hope”
    Hopefully, it will not rain.
    I hope it will not rain.
    William Safire is quoted as saying: "The word 'hopefully' has become the litmus test to determine whether one is a language snob or a language slob."
  • 33. William Safire: "After a while, words come to mean what most people think they mean, not what we say they ought to mean."
    That's why he abandoned his objections to the use of verbal in place of oral, and alarmed traditionalists by accepting the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb, as in "Hopefully the war will end soon." He didn't take any satisfaction in seeing himself as part of the lonely and embattled minority of We Who Know Better. For Safire, usage standards had to ultimately rest on a broad educated consensus, part of the common understanding that makes public discourse possible.  
  • 34. William Safire
    Safire, for his part, saw signs of life everywhere. “I welcome new words, or old words used in new ways,” he wrote, “provided the result is more precision, added color or greater expressiveness.”
    “If you don’t give a hootenkack for a pinkletink, you’re insensitive to the color and excitement in our migrating, changing language” Safire.
  • 35. The “hopefully” rule
    Came about mid 20th century and has no basis in logic, grammar or parallel usage of words like frankly, sadly, candidly, happily.
  • 36. Don’t use “impact” as a verb
    The survey “impacted” our lives.
    The survey had an impact on our lives.
    Impact has been a verb for four hundred years, but for some, historical evidence has none.
  • 37. The Oxford English Dictionary cites "impact" as a verb back to the 1600s. The sense of "wedging stuff into" came first, but they cite "to impact" = "to come forcibly into contact with": from 1916. And even in the non-literal sense - "to have a (pronounced) effect on" - they cite it back to 1935.
  • 38. Don’t modify absolute words such as unique, perfect and final
    “We the people in order to form a
    perfect union…”
  • 39. Never use “irregardless” for regardless or irrespective.
    Irregardless: Used by people who ignorantly mean to say regardless. According to Webster, it is a word, but since the prefix "ir" and the suffix "less" both mean "not or with" they cancel each other out, so what you end up with is regard.
  • 40. Words that attract attention
    These are words that if you use them correctly, readers who think that it matters will take note that you know the difference.
  • 41. Anxious
    To prepare
    Not to expect
    Make worse
    Not to annoy
  • 42. Blackmail
    Threaten to expose
    Not to coerce
  • 43. Blackmail or Coerce?
  • 44. Blackmail or Coerce?
  • 45. Cohort
  • 46. Cohort:
    A group who attends someone
    Not a single accompanying person
  • 47. Continuous
  • 48. Which one is incessant?
    “Continuous” refers to actions which are uninterrupted.
  • 49. Disinterested
    Not uninterested
  • 50. Enormity
    Hugely bad
    Not enormous
  • 51. Fortuitous
    By chance
    Fortunate means lucky, derived from the word fortune, which means luck, either good or bad. The Romans thought of fortune as a goddess who could be for you or against you.
    Fortuitous, on the other hand, derives from the Latin ‘fortuitus’ meaning, by chance, accidental. So a fortuitous meeting is an accidental meeting, rather than a lucky one.
    Of course, now the waters have been further muddied. That’s because the common usage of fortuitous implies both chance and luck – in other words, a fortuitous meeting might be one that was accidental, but which worked out well for those who met.
  • 52. What?!?
  • 53. Fate or Accident? Good or bad? It is what it is.
    I was fortunate to have lost my house to the bank.
    It was fortuitous that I fell and broke my leg.
  • 54. Fulsome
    Sickeningly excessive
    Fulsome praise is not good.
  • 55. Notorious
    Known for bad behavior
    Does not mean famous
  • 56. Notorious or Famous?
  • 57. No one should turn in their writing unedited.
    No one should turn in his or her writing unedited.
    No one should turn in his writing unedited.
    No one should turn in her writing unedited.
    Many grammarians believe that the plural pronoun with a singular antecedent will become the rule.
  • 58. Here comes Larry the language nerd!
  • 59. Prescriptivism and descriptivism are contrasting approaches to grammar and usage, particularly to how they are taught. Both are concerned with the state of a language — descriptivism with how it’s used, prescriptivism with how it should be used.
  • 60. Sources