On Language: A Logical Response to Steven Carter

To Be a Grammatical Purist, or Not:

The essay attached immediately below is a response to Steven Carter’s article, It Is to Be Hoped that Proper Grammar Can Endure.

On Language: A Logical Response to Steven Carter (open as a pdf)

Those who study the English language feel privileged to tell others how to use it correctly. I sometimes do—I’ll admit that much. But English is a naturally evolving linguistic system. For contrast, French is a prescribed language, particularly in its written form. English, however, is not prescribed. English dictionaries and rule books are therefore less authoritative than your average grammarian would like you to believe.

In this instance, I feel Mr. Carter is erring on the side of strict grammar enforcement simply to combat a sense of pervasive laziness among English speakers. This much is noble pursuit. However, I also believe Mr. Carter goes too far, that his penchant for grammatical precision sometimes defies logic, and that his prescription of language could ultimately result in the tragic end he seeks to avoid.

To be specific, the end of proper written expression can be achieved either by ignoring Mr. Carter completely, or by actually following Mr. Carter’s explicit instructions.

About the Photo: A lone, windswept tree stands in the park at Fort McHenry National Monument, photographed in June of 2012.