Re. Keeping up with modern English

Subject: Re. Keeping up with modern English
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 10:20:04 -0600

Trey Jones asks <paraphrase> When do you stray from 19th
century English grammar manuals and go with modern usage?

Editors deal with this every working day, and there are
only two workable solutions that I'm aware of:
1. Pick a comprehensive style guide (such as Univ. of
Chicago's tome) that is updated regularly and let that be
your touchstone.
2. Read everything you can get your hands on, and obtain a
"feel" for the way modern English works.

There are unquestionably problems with traditional grammar
(e.g., the "split infinitives" bugaboo), but the most
important rules of grammar (e.g., subject-verb agreements)
haven't changed appreciably in recent memory. The rules
exist because they work, and rules that work don't change
much if at all. The issue of formality vs. informality
involves knowing your audience well enough to pick an
appropriate style, and has little to do with grammar:
informal writing must still be grammatically correct.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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