23 April: Correct-your-English Language Day

This blog features a Language Calendar, and it includes 23 April – English Language Day (UN). Why was 23 April chosen for this, and why have an English Language Day to begin with? As a World Language, English is important enough as it is. So this year, we thought we’d like to promote the CORRECT use of English for a change by having a Correct-your-English Language Day instead.

Just for this one day, we encourage you to avoid making grammar or spelling mistakes, and to just use words in their precise, etymological meanings (as writers of usage guides tell us to do). Just for a day, avoid splitting your infinitives, put only only in its proper place, avoid Americanisms (or Britishisms, as the case may be), say I shall instead of I will, use whom for a change, spell focussing (focusing?) correctly, and for goodness sake, just for once avoid using literally as a general intensifier. And while you go about it, point out such mistakes to others when they make them.

Let us have Correct English, even if it is for one day only.

And then: tell us all about what all this did to you. Did all this language awareness make you speak better English and write better texts? Or were you relieved the day was over, so you could go back to being as sloppy in your linguistic habits as usual? Did people like you better for telling them if they made a grammar mistake? Did you discover what your own pet linguistic peeves are compared to those of others? Did you have any interesting discussions about language use and linguistic correctness?

Please share your experiences on our Bridging the Unbridgeable Blog. We are a project at the University of Leiden Centre for Linguistics doing research on English usage guides and English usage problems, and are especially interested in what the general speaker thinks of particular usages that have been experienced as problematical for many, many years. If you wish to see what such usages are, have a look at our usage surveys (and fill them in for us, either before or after 23 April! you will find them here), and if you wish to have language advice, make use of our Hyper Usage Guide of English, our HUGE database. Access is free upon application.

You can leave your comments by clicking on the title of this post (in the special field at the bottom headed Leave a reply). We hope to receive many of them. And meanwhile:

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7 Responses to 23 April: Correct-your-English Language Day

  1. Tony Parr says:

    Good afternoon Ingrid! I assume that 23 April was chosen as the official English Language Day because it’s also St George’s Day – and hence England’s national day. Good luck!

  2. Tony Hawk says:

    This post is utterly surprising. What you are saying is that for one day you should pick a random usage guide and try to follow its advice. Even though the advice may be completely out of sync with reality. Even though this reinforces the idea that language advice is “good”. Even though this may destroy your confidence in using your language.

    I thought the purpose of this project was to investigate usage, not to reinforce it. Doesn’t seem very scientific to me.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tony: we are interested in people’s attitudes to correctness, and all the issues mentioned in the post have come up in earlier posts in this blog. Hopefully you also noticed the post’s tongue-in-cheekness.

      • Tony Hawk says:

        Interesting, the tongue-in-cheekness is exactly something that some usage guide writers use to drive their point home. You take a day that is a celebration of English as an international language and changed it into something that expressly alienates all those people who have trouble speaking English. You’re saying: only those who make no mistakes can speak English properly. You are explicitly taking the side of the prescriptivists. Again, no science there. Good job.

  3. Bruce Banner says:

    I thought this project was about “Bridging”… This is, literally, only reinforcing usage advice.

    • With the post we aimed to take the issue one step higher, and to make people respond (as you and other readers did) to the notion of prescriptivism in practice as it were. Comments like yours actually do the bridging, so we are grateful for it.

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