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John McIntyre

Not everyone is crazy

Amid the ignorant braying about grammar and usage one occasionally hears a still, small voice of sense. 
You can hear it in a post by the eminently sensible Stan Carey, who (while generously quoting me) looks at some of the websites retailing bogus advice: "little more than unreconstructed dogma, banal advice on spelling and style, and the same tired old shibboleths that grammaticasters have been obsessing over for decades regardless of the evidence of usage." So now you can begin a handy list of sites to shun. 
The saddest result of the barrage of howling misapprehensions about language, he says, is that "they collapse and confuse the principles governing language use, leading insecure readers to feel bound by linguistic rules that often don’t apply to them or to anyone."
The teaching of grammar, when attempts to teach it are made, leaves students with the understanding that it is, as Henry Hitchings says, "a network of traps for the unwary." This morning I had to break it to the handful of students in my editing class who knew of the no-split-infinitives rule that it is in fact no rule at all but a damned superstition. A couple of them looked startled; they've been good students, and they want to do right. 
And, of course, graduates of schools in which the attempt to teach grammar has been abandoned wind up with no analytical equipment to deal with grammar, syntax, and usage except "what sounds right." There's a lot you can do by ear, but for some purposes you need to learn counterpoint. 
Stick with me, and I will continue to point you toward reliable practitioners while cautioning you against quacks. 

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