Does it matter if we split infinitives or fuse participles? Campaigners for "correct" English think that it doesby Simon Heffer, Oliver Kamm / February 19, 2015 / Leave a comment
Is there such a thing as correct English?
Simon Heffer: There is such a thing as correct English. It is the standard form of communication used when one English speaker or writer wishes to ensure that he or she is not misunderstood by another. It is the English from which all other dialects and patois are derived. It is codified in English grammars. The Oxford English Dictionary has, since its completion in 1928, defined the meanings of words. Words have changed their meaning throughout history, and new words are regularly minted to describe new objects, ideas or functions: these are found in the supplements to, and the new edition of, the dictionary.
Correct English is used by the newspapers for which you and I write. If you were to take a laissez-faire approach to English in your leading articles a sub-editor would change them. This is because even if you don’t believe there is such a thing as correct English, the people who shape the style of your newspaper—and of most other printed journals—do. And they believe it because your readers, my readers and radio and television audiences all believe there is something called “correct English.”
My purpose in writing two books about correct usage was to prevent people who have not been blessed by the education that you and I enjoyed from being judged in our class-ridden society as inadequates, in the way they would be in France. Because a common understanding of what constitutes correct English does exist, those who use it incorrectly may put themselves at a disadvantage—such as when writing job applications, or in an interview. You may lament that there is such a common understanding, but standard or correct English exists whether you like it or not, and we just have to put up with it. And so long as it is there, I want to try to teach everyone to use it. One can level up just as effectively as one can level down.
Oliver Kamm: English grammar has rules.…