March 23, 2001
What are you doing in

What are you doing in front of your computer when the April edition of Harper's has a new essay by David Foster Wallace? It's about descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar, and it's fascinating stuff. Not surprisingly, DFW comes down on the side of prescriptive grammar. The best idea I'll take from the essay and its 52 footnotes [1] is that we all speak multiple dialects of english, each appropriate to a particular "Discourse Community". Standard Written English, which is generally what most English usage guides are concerned with, is but one of these dialects, but DFW argues (persuasively, I think) that it's an important and valid one for professional life.

The point is, go read the damn thing.


Posted by Bill Stilwell at March 23, 2001 12:00 AM
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