Maeve Maddox, long-time language blogger and former editor of the international blog Daily Writing Tips, has published a collection of essays about English usage called Word Rage, How To Stop Worrying and Learn To Love Your Language.
The book is a response to the negative comments about usage that so often disrupt discussion on social media. Maddox emphasizes the fact that English is a collection of dialects and that different contexts call for different usage.
Word Rage is organized into eight sections.
Section One, English Belongs to Everybody, discusses the registers of English. A linguistic register is the variety of a language spoken in a specific situation. Maddox points out that what she calls language bullies often attack usage that is perfectly acceptable in certain contexts.
Section Two, A Little Grammar Goes a Long Way, provides 18 mini-lessons that cover the most basic points of grammar that a non-specialist needs to know in order to avoid valid criticism.
Section Three, Word Choice Matters, looks at words that frequently raise blood pressure, either because they are used incorrectly, or because they carry emotional connotations for some speakers.
Section Four, Language Bigots Are a Bore, addresses some of the words and expressions that are ridiculed by speakers on the basis of regional or class prejudice.
Section Five, Usage Isn’t Always Logical, takes a look at some idioms that are often attacked on the basis that they are not logical. According to Maddox, when it comes to linguistic idioms, logic is irrelevant.
Section Six, English Spelling Is not for Sissies, takes on the often repeated notion that English spelling is too inconsistent for ordinary people to be expected to learn to spell correctly. Maddox points out that ordinary people use only about 3,000 words in their day-to-day writing, most of which do follow easily mastered spelling conventions. According to Maddox, English spelling is more challenging than that of other modern languages, but it’s not the mess people like to pretend it is. She is persuaded that most speakers can learn to spell the words they use in conversation by the age of thirteen.
Section Seven, Punctuation.Is.Fun, addresses the most common problems with apostrophes and commas and reviews the ten most common errors of punctuation.
Section Eight, Words and Usage Are Mortal, acknowledges the fact that language changes. Words and expressions take on different meanings. Even grammar changes. Maddox admits, somewhat reluctantly, that members of the older generation must come to terms with this change. When a new usage reaches a tipping point, cranky attacks on it do nothing to change the inevitable.
The table of contents forWord Rage can be viewed at Maeve’swebsite.
Word Rage is available atAmazon in both print and digital editions.