I tend to be quite rigid when it comes to the rules of the English language. I love language and am a creature of habit. I like to know that things fit into nice little boxes, follow certain rules, and can be made to look nice, neat, and pretty. I can be very opinionated, as well. Actually, I am perfect for the job of editor!
Language isn’t always as neat and pretty as an OCD editor would like to hope, though. One of the loudest–and most fun–discussions that would bounce around the lunchroom when I used to work at an office with other editors would be about whether the English language is, or should be, a fluid language.
Obviously, our language is fluid: it changes from generation to generation, and as technology shifts and changes. My stance is that the underlying rules should not change; these rules are how we keep our language classy, communicate properly with each other, and help non-native speakers learn without being any more confused than they already are. I also believe that language holds history, and that should be respected. Not everyone thinks as I do, however. Many believe that punctuation rules are annoying and useless, that some of the ways words are spelled are outdated and all words should be spelled phonetically, and that language is nothing more than a means to an end so it can be changed as the user sees fit.
It’s true that language is a tool: we use it to communicate with one another. It changes with time. Even I use emoticons and some text abbreviations. (LOL) There is a time and place for everything, though, and, if the language is going to be used to communicate effectively, perhaps instead of mourning the loss of “proper” English, we should be teaching students the appropriateness of each style, and the context in which it should be used.
What do you think? How do language rules keep a society running smoothly? Are usage and grammar rules outdated?
If language is our biggest tool for communicating ideas, history, feelings, commerce, etc, we should all put a little more thought into why we use it the way we do, don’t you think?