Having studied English as a foreign language, I have been confronted with numerous grammar rules and comments on style during my schooling years. First, it was mainly about getting the grammar right, in particular the tenses. But once I moved on to studying English at an advanced level and at university, the focus shifted and style issues became increasingly important. Sometimes I was baffled by the red squiggles beneath words, phrases or sentences in my essays. My bewilderment was often left unresolved when asking the teachers for the reason of the red squiggles. Comments such as “You can’t say that in English”, “This is not proper English” or “That is too German” did not foster my understanding of what “proper English” was supposed to be. All I knew was that next time I would avoid this particular word, phrase or sentence.
The confusion about the nature of proper English is complete once you spend some time in an English speaking country. Seeing language being used by its native speakers can be an eye-opening experience, yet at the same time it can bring everything you thought you knew about a language into question. So what is proper English? What do British native speakers, the so-called general public, perceive as proper English? What is acceptable British English usage? Finding answers to these questions is the main focus of this blog. A detailed description of what Proper English Usage is dealing with can be found in the About section.