More on the difficult craft
Two quotations for the day, the first moderately flippant, the second dead serious, from the chapter “The Language Mavens” in Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct:
“[O]nce introduced, a prescriptive rule is very hard to eradicate, no matter how ridiculous. Inside the educational and writing establishments, the rules survive by the same dynamic that perpetuates ritual genital mutilations and college fraternity hazing: I had to go through it and am none the worse, so why should you have it any easier?”
“The aspect of language use that is most worth changing is the clarity and style of written prose.* Expository writing requires language to express far more complex trains of thought than it was biologically designed to do. Inconsistencies caused by limitations of short-term memory and planning, unnoticed in conversation, are not as tolerable when presented on a page that is to be perused more leisurely. Also, unlike a conventional partner, a reader will rarely share enough background assumptions to interpolate all the missing premises that make language comprehensible. Overcoming one’s natural egocentrism and trying to anticipate the knowledge state of a generic reader at every stage of the exposition is one of the most important tasks in writing well. All this makes writing a difficult craft that must be mastered through practice, instruction, feedback, and—probably most important—intensive exposure to good examples.”
*I suspect that Those People are not aware of such an attitude among descriptivists.