Garblog's Pages

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Language evolves, grammar changes | Colin Gardiner, Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.

Sure, Gardener is right. Our language does evolve and change, and we should accept it. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the rules of writing as long as we can get our point across. There's a reason for those rules, just as as there are rules for just about everything we do.

Like spelling a person's name, for example. I wonder how Colin Gardiner would feel--and what he would think of me!--if he noticed my (intentional) misspelling of his name in the first paragraph.

He writes:
Surely the whole point of a language is communication. Therefore, if someone is conveying an idea accurately (whether they say "speak loud" or "speak loudly"), the job is done. Would they judge a foreigner whose English is not flawless? No? Then why do they judge anyone?
One reason we have rules of the road, for driving, is so we have some expectation about what other drivers (and pedestrians) are doing or plan to do--and so they have some expectation about what we're doing or plan to do. There would be many more accidents--and tragic deaths--if everyone did his or her own thing.

While tragedy is less likely if someone ignores the rules of writing, the expectation among readers of what certain sentence structures, word choices and punctuation marks mean does aid readers and their understanding of a writer's words. Those expectations of readers are more important that the whims of a writer, at least in serious writing--and certainly in things like instruction manuals and safety notices.

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