I have fallen in love with this man.

“Sometimes I wonder: if the people who make up style sheets and enforce them are so damn fond of arbitrary and indefensible “rules” not grounded in usage, even the usage of the intellectual elites, why don’t they just invent some? Say, your press won’t publish any word with the letter “z” in it, or any sentence that begins with a vowel letter, or any occurrence of the pseudocleft construction, or the sequence “is for” (no matter how it arises)? I can think of hundreds of entertaining “rules” of this sort. You could hire people to enforce them, and make every book published by your press ENTIRELY CONSISTENT with them. And then schoolchildren everywhere could be drilled on these “rules”. Your press could go down in history.

Hey, John Dryden did it for stranded prepositions. Some still-unidentified person(s) did it for possessive antecedents for pronouns, less than a century ago. There’s plenty of territory still available. Talk it up to your board.”
Arnold Zwicky

If you are interested in why he said this, start here:
Don’t do this at home, kiddies!
then go here:
What I currently know about which and that
and here if you want:
The people from the CCGW are here to see you
and finally to the one linked above:
Five more thoughts on the That Rule

He is so right on so many levels.


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2 Responses to I have fallen in love with this man.

  1. mayfly says:

    you seem to have a lot of energy about this. why not write a book? i can see it now: a complete compilation of sensible grammatic rules: everything else you can (and should, by god) ignore by wilbur bennett, III.* [size=9:117a8aac8a]*it has recently come to my attention that the tone of this post may have unintentionally seemed sarcastic, ironic, or snippy. do note that this was in fact unintentional; while i realize that it is probably not feasible professionally for you to write a book like the one suggested above (as you would have to argue other people’s ideas), i was, in fact, somewhat serious. i wish a book like the one above existed, so i could use it to teach. also, i got a kick out of imagining you angrily reading from it at a book signing, tearing apart all the useless grammatical rules you hate. [edit, 5/23] [/size:117a8aac8a]

  2. snaars says:

    Writing is an art form that (which?) can be compared to other forms in the following way: There are those that glory in the technical aspects of the art. They appreciate rules, and the subtleties of correct application of the rules. The rules are self-imposed limitations and tools, and it takes great skill to design aesthetically pleasing finished works. Then there are those that work on a more intuitive level. These are people who do not have the patience for so much attention to details. They are interested in the finished product more than the process, and they don’t worry about breaking a little rule here or there as long as they feel that their ideas are adequately expressed. Sometimes the rules really are too restrictive; these people want think outside the box and do something completely new. I have always been more like the first sort of person. I used to be very bothered by folks that wouldn’t follow rules. I appreciated the rules, not just for their own sake, but for their elegance. I could see how they fit together so nicely! Both approaches have their merits and, I feel, their shortcomings. I think the rule-followers should stop being busybodies. Obviously some rules are necessary, but the strictness of their application should not be universal; it should depend on the context.

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