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today is the 50th anniversary of a famous grammar guide book's publication. Options
prolixitysquared
Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2009 6:37:29 PM
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Apparently, today is the 50th anniversary of William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White's Elements of Style. I figured this was quite relevant to the forum.

I first heard about this a few hours ago on NPR's All Things Considered. It was a bit of a pun-friendly commentary.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103169900

Then I found the original story from Morning Edition.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103140512

Any sly comments ?
Luftmarque
Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 12:58:50 AM

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One of my fav's, and the inspiration for a number of similar studies in other fields, e.g. The Elements of Programming Style.
alliejoan
Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 9:58:52 AM
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Also one of my favorites. I think I shall buy the Anniversary edition!

The comic piece is great--especially the remark about the bankers and politicians. So true...
Can top
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:19:17 AM
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I'm not at all sure why anyone would want this book.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

By GEOFFREY K. PULLUM

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won't be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.



http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i32/32b01501.htm

They've now made it a paying proposition to read the whole article.

grammargeek
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:40:19 PM
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Can top wrote:
I'm not at all sure why anyone would want this book.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

By GEOFFREY K. PULLUM

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won't be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.



http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i32/32b01501.htm

They've now made it a paying proposition to read the whole article.


Can top, I went to the article by Geoffrey Pullum but was only able to read a small portion without electing to subscribe to The Chronicle Review, as you mentioned. So I am a little bit confused about where in your post Pullum ends and Can top begins. If all that you posted above is from the article, then you were able to see more of it than I was. Nevertheless, because you seem to be very knowledgeable about English grammar, I'm just curious as to whether or not you are an English professor or author or just what your background might be. I look forward to your clarifications.
Can top
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2009 4:03:03 PM
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Joined: 8/5/2009
Posts: 35
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Location: Canada
Can Top:I'm not at all sure why anyone would want this book.


===========================================
50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

By GEOFFREY K. PULLUM

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won't be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won't be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte's Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk's death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.


====================================================

Can Top: They've now made it a paying proposition to read the whole article.

grammargeek wrote:


Can top, I went to the article by Geoffrey Pullum but was only able to read a small portion without electing to subscribe to The Chronicle Review, as you mentioned. So I am a little bit confused about where in your post Pullum ends and Can top begins. If all that you posted above is from the article, then you were able to see more of it than I was. Nevertheless, because you seem to be very knowledgeable about English grammar, I'm just curious as to whether or not you are an English professor or author or just what your background might be. I look forward to your clarifications.


I hope that makes it clearer. My apologies, GG.

Being an English professor or an author doesn't help one understand how language works, GG. Witness both Strunk & White, one an English professor, the other, quite the author. See Brians Error for a good example of an English professor who knows little of language or the Darling Grammar site that is replete with errors.

To understand how language works you have to study, what else, how the language works. This entails seeing how people use language in different language situations. It involves looking at the prescriptions of old and actually assessing whether they have any validity when they are compared to the facts and historical realities.

My background is in the field of ESL/EFL and soon after I started teaching I noticed that ESL students who followed many of the "rules" produced unnatural language. That led to a long and deep study of language, helped along, of course by a large number of descriptivist linguists and grammarians.

Here's another short article from the same G Pullum on S&W and the affect it has on North American students' knowledge of grammar. Helped along as they have been by a couple of grammatical incompetents, aided by a host of others, Partridge, Lederer, Simon, Safire, ... , you can imagine that it's not a pretty picture.

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001803.html

Alvin Blanco
Posted: Monday, August 17, 2009 7:24:11 PM
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And it's apparent that "understanding how language works" doesn't necessarily do much for one's ear as a writer. Pullum is a bit of a joke.
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