During the construction of the HUGE database, I have been thinking about the genre of usage guides a lot for the simple, practical purpose of determining which titles would be put in the database, and which would not. Edmund Weiner asked himself 25 years ago…
What are we to make of that neglected genre, the Usage Guide?
As a genre, the usage guide is somewhat of a mixed bag. Weiner notes that although a usage guide covers all parts of the language, it doesn’t describe all of it. A usage guide gives the meaning of words, but it is not a dictionary (altough it can be set up like one). A usage guide discusses grammatical structures, but it is not a grammar. According to Tieken-Boon van Ostade, the usage guide “aims to point out and correct linguistic errors” instead of “focusing on actual grammar”, while offering “some entertainment in the process”. Weiner says that it covers all parts of the language, and while this is generally true, it doesn’t cover every part equally.
To help define the usage guides as a genre, I have made came up with a number of other genres that cover parts of the language which are also addressed in usage guides: dictionaries, style guides, handbooks on writing, spelling & punctuation guides, descriptive grammars, language acquisition textbooks, and popular works on language. What kind of work do you think of when you think about a usage guide? Share your thoughts by taking the poll!