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A Tale of Two Theories

“Grammar is credibility,” says Amanda Sturgill, PhD, associate professor of communications at Elon University. “If you’re not taking care of the small things, people assume you’re not taking care of the big things.”

“Grammar is racism,” says Mona Chalabi, data editor at Guardian US.

OK—so maybe that’s not a direct quote. But she did say this, which makes about as much sense: “It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance when it comes to grammar snobbery. The people pointing out the mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension.”

Rather than triumphantly point out Ms. Chalabi’s own sneering condescension, let’s give Paul Brians, PhD, emeritus professor of English at Washington State University, the final word on this one. “It may be deplorable,” he writes in the introduction to his indispensable Common Errors in English Usage, “but the fact is our language is judged all the time by employers, friends, and potential dates. When some teachers evade the issue by declaring all dialects equal, they set their students up for bitter disappointment in the world outside school. By all means celebrate the variety of Englishes abounding in the world today—but everyone deserves to know what sort of usage variations may cause them trouble.”



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