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Our False Beliefs About Language For nearly a century, linguists have been struggling to unseat the accumulated dogma that “masquerades as common sense,” as the American linguist Leonard Bloomfield put it in 1933. That’s the challenge that faces every developing science, but linguistics seems to have had a harder time than most. People who readily accept the principles of modern economics, psychology and biology still cling to notions about language that are as antiquated as a belief in physi­ocracy or leeching.
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The ‘O’ Word We’d better address one textual issue up front, and without italics. This book opts for the iconic form: OK.

This newspaper’s style calls for the punctilious (and closest to the original) form: O.K.

My own strong preference is the form that looks most simply like a word, whose pronunciation is clear, and which doesn’t call for an apostrophe in extensions like “okayed” and “okays”:
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Grammar and Usage “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.” — Andrew Jackson

Why are people so obsessed with grammar, and so offended by real or imagined lapses? They argue over split infinitives and sentences that end in prepositions, almost to the point of blows. (Winston Churchill was supposedly so exasperated by a speechwriter’s avoidance of prepositional endings that he erupted: “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” Note the use of the weaselly word “supposedly”: some sources say an anonymous British official, not Churchill, was the source of the famous remark.)
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English Grammer Guide

Copy Edit This!

The Times’s standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, invites readers to correct grammatical errors in recently published Times stories.

Read more: Copy Edit This!


When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)

In the texting era, symbols may say more than the words around them (or, at least, we think they do).

Read more: When Your Punctuation Says It All (!)


Mary Norris Muses on a Lifetime of Literary Vigilance in ‘Between You & Me’

A copy editor at The New Yorker looks back at her unusual career in “Between You & Me,” which reflects on hyphens, commas, spelling and profanity in print.

Read more: Mary Norris Muses on a Lifetime of Literary Vigilance in ‘Between You & Me’


‘Between You & Me,’ by Mary Norris

A language guide and memoir about life at The New Yorker.

Read more: ‘Between You & Me,’ by Mary Norris


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