Descriptivism and Prescriptivism: The Rules of Language
Arbitrary rules of byzantine complexity, set forth by competing interests, govern the use of English. If effective communication is the purpose of language, communication suffers when impossibly high standards are applied. Against the weak and unprivileged, the rules of language can be a tool of oppression. Descriptivism is the proper attitude toward the rules of English. Descriptivism puts message ahead of delivery method, dismisses arbitrary and contradictory rules, and prevents the weaponization of the rules by the elite. Editors and other gatekeepers need to relax their prescriptivist tendencies and embrace descriptivism so writers’ work will be more accessible.