Resources on Prescriptivism


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Basic resources on prescriptivism

Sites with lists of resources on prescriptive grammar

Current prescriptive resources

Historical prescriptive resources – see how “correctness” has changed over time

Articles related to the marketing of “correct” grammar

Fun resources related to prescriptivism


Basic resources on prescriptivism

What is ‘correct’ language ? Basic introduction to prescriptivism by Edward Finegan

Two other short essays about prescriptivism from The Atlantic – 

            A War That Never Ends by Mark Halpern (1997)

            The Decline of Grammar by Geoffrey Nunberg (1983)


Sites with lists of resources on prescriptive grammar

Links related to grammar

Common errors in English – with a disclaimer about the idea of errors

English Grammar FAQ from John Lawler

Common problems with English grammar

Guide to grammar and style – Prescriptive guidelines and grammar-related links from Jack Lynch at Rutgers University, Neward

Common Errors in English Grammar and Pronunciation

Prescriptive grammar links from the WorldWide Classroom 


Current prescriptive resources

OED Oxford English Dictionary On-line

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English – Prescriptive grammar by Kenneth G. Wilson from 1993

American Heritage Book of English Usage – On-line version of the 1996 edition – A great source for usage questions

The National Public Radio guide to pronunciation, usage and grammar

Pronunciation Guide from the Voice of America


Historical documents related to prescriptivism

Jonathon Swift

1811 Dictionary of Slang

Composition Grammar and Southern English – In case you doubted that prescriptive grammar is politically-motivated, the Confederate States of America felt the need to write their “own” prescriptive grammar. This site has the original 1863 grammar.

A Dissolving View of Punctuation by Wendell Phillips Garrison an article published in The Atlantic in 1906 about the language was in decline 100 years ago.

H. W. Fowler’s The King’s English – a prescriptive grammar from 1908 

and a book review from the Atlantic on the updated version of Fowler’s grammar, Elegant Variation and All That by Jesse Sheidlower

Notes on the origins of some prescriptive rules of Standard English from Pyles and Algeo’s book The origins and development of the English language


Articles relating to Standard Pronunciation

Ten Tips for Accent Reduction – from Accurate English, a company that sells accent reduction courses. The tips are things like “Listen to the ‘music’ of English” see also Business Week’s article advising job-seekers to lose their accents

Improve Yourself with Better Grammar – An on-line commercial course

Verbal Advantage – Improve your vocabulary to get ahead in life – learn “power words” – “words used by successful professionals to communicate more effectively”


Fun links related to prescriptive grammar

Word Police  - The grammar cops – take their entrance exam to see if you’re worthy of joining the Word Police Academy…

Maledicta’s links – from the journal for the study of “Bad language”

Presidential Debates Mirror Long-term School Decline an article By Dr. Robert Beard and Paul JJ Payack on how recent presidential debates demonstrate decline in language skills. posted at

The Grammar Lady -Mary Newton Bruder began her grammar hotline in Pittsgurgh in the 1980’s and writes a newspaper column on prescriptive grammar

Polka Dot Ribbon Campaign includes information on improving grammar on the web.  If your website is in proper Standard English, then you may display a Blue and Yellow ribbon to show your support for good grammar

Gallery of Misused Quotation Marks

Banished Words – see what words Lake Superior State University has declared “banished” from the English language because of “mis-, mal- or over-use as well as general uselessness”