Battling throughout the ages: Grammarians versus Writers


After reading Lesson 2 of Joseph WIlliams book, Style (3rd Edition), I can officially say that I feel both vindicated and properly schooled. I love to write, to read, and to hone my personal ability to spin words into sentences. However, for all of my love of these practices, I never truly caught on to grammar. In 8th grade (where grammar fell into the curriculum) I tried my absolute best to memorize what rule dictated this and that sentence. But I could never make my brain understand (or remember) all of the reasons why I shouldn't write something in a particular. So I devised a system of editing the sentences with my mental ear, following whatever sounded right. Needless to say, I scored average or marginal marks in the grammar section.

One of Williams' grammarian rules mentioned in Lesson 2 that directly runs against mental (or physically listening) ears is the second Hobgoblin rule: "Don't use hopefully to mean "I hope.'" (pg. 20) Seriously, who says "I hope I won't be late." more than "Hopefully, I won't be late."? This rule was devised in the middle of the 20th century, and I've no doubt that their are grammarians out there who will criticize this blog for my improper usage of it, but I'm going to side with the Writers on this Hobgoblin.

The above represents my vindication, while I was properly schooled in having to review all of the grammar rules within Lesson 2. My proper punishment will have been to read these rules, actually try to remember them, and then later (when I'm revising) have to decide which rules I'll follow and which ones I'll break. Then again, I'll probably tail after my inner ear for the most part.

However, my colleagues may adhere to the rules or have another editing system in general.


I like the inner ear suggestion. And you're title got me. I also wrote (briefly) about the Grammarian vs Writer battle in this book.

Because some of the rules were established so long ago, I am tempted to say they are irrelevant and throw them out. Then again, they may still be around because they are more than tradition. They may actually work.

Maddie, I enjoyed your blog and I agree with what you had to say. Like Aja, I think the inner ear suggestion is a good one. I also agree with Aja that many rules that have been established are probably only still in place (and let's be honest, "still in place" really only means that they are drilled into high school kids' heads and used against students on grammar tests) because they are traditional.

Leave a comment