Finding the fun in prescriptivism

Spelling makes the difference
Spelling makes the difference

One might think that reading too many articles on language pedantry and disputed usage items would, sooner or later, take its toll. But surprisingly, studying prescriptivism and descriptivism has so far not only caused the occasional head shaking and nodding, but also giggles and fits of laughter. To share some of my findings with you, I have put together a small collection of links which I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Finding good grammar jokes is not always easy. But here are two good ones:

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

That do you say when you are comforting a grammar nazi?   –    There, their, they’re.

There are plenty of funny cartoons and memes on punctuation, grammar, and usage items on the internet. My colleague Morana Lukac has created a Pintrest board with some graphical highlights such as the ones below.

Not so funnyBiceps

Similar graphics can be found on the facebook page of Grammarly, a grammar checker. Mocking signs such as the one below can be done in such a well-considered and accomplished manner.

Mocking door signs

For those of you, who are familiar with The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, the following video is a must.

If you want to find out, whether you lean towards prescriptivism or descriptivism, you can take a test. But beware: take it with a pinch of salt!

As you can see, the prescriptivism and descriptivism debate bears a huge potential to find humour and there is more to discover.

The world’s worst written sentence

Style can be a tricky subject. Find out more about “bad” sentences and how they can be avoided.

Bridging the Unbridgeable

Consider the following sentence:

“Yet the nightmare cast its shroud in the guise of a contagion of  a deer-in-the-headlights paralysis.”  

According to columnist at The Economist, the above sentence would qualify to be nominated as “the world’s worst written sentence”, yet, believe it or not, there are worse. (Read the Economist column to find out more.) So what is wrong with the above sentence?

From a grammatical perspective the sentence is perfectly fine. What seems to bother people such as the columnist are stylistic issues. Without doubt, style can be a tricky subject. That is why, newspapers, TV networks and several magazines developed their own style guides. Nevertheless, one would still think that writing is, above all, a creative process. Conforming to rules regulating and restricting this creativity, thus, sounds a little odd.

What plays a crucial role in this matter is the genre. Certain expectations are…

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