Dogma versus Rules of Thumb

Language Log is an always stimulating group blog on language and linguistics, with posts that range from earworms and usage advice to research tools and sociolinguistics. The comments sections are as illuminating as the posts themselves.

A recent post called “Proportion of Adverbs and Adjectives: Some Facts” dismantles the still-too-common notion that good writing needs to avoid adjectives and adverbs. The post is detailed but fun to read, and is tagged under the computational linguistics category, though it could be tagged under prescriptivist poppycock as well.


Commentator Garrett Wollman notes: “[Language Log] itself could be taken as one extended meta-analysis into the question ‘Is there any single piece of writing advice that stands up to objective scrutiny?'”

It’s a great question. My guess is that the answer is Yes … but not many.


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