Re: rules

Subject: Re: rules
From: "Ekstedt, Peter (GP)" <EKSTEDTP -at- ANZ -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 12:28:00 +1000

Marilynne Smith wrote:

>Support the dictionary whose policies you prefer. Different compilers use
>different methods to gather terms. One uses "what are people saying?" as a
>guideline, another uses "what are people saying that is good and
>necessary?" If you want a dictionary that applies some sense and not just
>usage, use an American Heritage dictionary.

This assumes that you have identified an appropriate authority to make
decisions about what is "good" and/or "necessary". Let me guess - a
bunch of university educated, middle class, white, anglo-saxon
protestants? (This is a pretty good description of myself.)

I think that this is a dangerous approach, given the uses to which
are put. They are, for example, used to assess literacy skills in
schools. By
allowing people like me to define "correct" usage we directly
against writers from other backgrounds. This approach suggests that
skills can be measured by examining how closely a given writer
a particular socio-economic dialect, rather than by examining how
the writer can express meaning to a given audience.

I think that general dictionaries should identify "prestige usage"
rather than
defining "correct usage".

Style guides for specific purposes (e.g. technical writing) are probably
a different
matter......but that isn't what we've been discussing.

Peter Ekstedt
ekstedtp -at- anz -dot- com

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