Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does Proper Grammar Count Anymore?



Even though I have always tried my best to learn all I could regarding proper English grammar so that I could apply it to my writing, I have lately grown a bit wary of attempting to be so overly precise in this pursuit of absolute correctness as to appear stuffy, aloof, or even pedantic by doing so. The trend today (especially among the younger readers) seems to be to avoid books and stories employing strictly proper grammar because the writing appears foreign to these readers' everyday speech patterns.

But still I am often attracted to articles and discussions of some of the little known finer points of English grammar.


According to a discussion on a linguistics related forum, there is a difference between the words ravish and ravage but they are often confused, one with the other.


verb archaic or literary.
1. fill with intense delight; enrapture.
2. seize and carry off by force.
3. rape.

1. To bring heavy destruction on; devastate: A tornado ravaged the town.
2. To pillage; sack: Enemy soldiers ravaged the village.

To wreak destruction.

1. The act or practice of pillaging, destroying, or devastating.
2. Grievous damage; havoc: the ravages of disease.


Additionally, Daily Writing Tips states that the terms compare to and compare with is another of those confusing points of English grammar that can be used either way even though there is a subtle difference between the two.

From Strunk and White (The Elements of Style):

To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances between objects regarded as essentially of a different order;

To compare with is mainly to point out differences between objects regarded as essentially of the same order.

Thus, life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.

Yes, I know that Strunk and White is currently being held in disrepute by today's recognized scholarly linguists and various other popular authorities on the subject of English grammar.Yes, I know all about the negative opinion of Geoffrey Pullum (of Language Log) regarding the book. Yes, I have great respect for Professor Pullum.

But, still...

William Strunk, Jr.


“The greater part of the world's troubles are due to questions of grammar”
--Michel de Montaigne

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