Pravipis: the first usage guide for Slovenian

Matjaž Zgonc (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Being a relatively new speech community, speakers of Slovenian did not receive a proper usage guide until 2012 when Pravipis, a 128-page booklet by author, translator and proof-reader Aleksandra Kocmut came into existence. It was published in two editions, the second one appearing in 2013. Although it is conceived and organized like many another usage guide – “Following ten years of reading, for the final few years I have been collecting mistakes which appear frequently in all types of texts and media,” the author writes, and “[Pravipis] is here for all those who come very frequently across orthographic, grammatical, and linguistic questions but lack the time to peruse the resources […]” (Kocmut 2012, 7) – Pravipis will be of interest to all those interested in usage guides as a genre not just because of its unique position as the only usage guide in a speech community, but also because, coming from a milieu entirely different from those of Germanic and Romance usage guides, it has an (uncannily?) specific prescriptive effect on its readership.

Front cover of Pravipis with author’s name and publisher visible, © Založba Modrijan, 2013

This is because Pravipis explicitly relinquishes the claim to any intrinsic normativity. It was intended to be a supplementary guide, a more easily accessible rule book inserted into a speech community already saturated with official (that is to say, academic) prescriptivism. The fact is that speakers of Slovenian have open and constant access to the official dictionary and rules of orthography, as well as know this because it is a part of the school curriculum in primary and secondary education. However, because these rules are notoriously difficult to understand, Kocmut wrote Pravipis (whose title is a pun on pravopis ‘orthographic rules’) in order to help those having difficulty understanding official resources. Pravipis is organized into twenty headings and a further 48 subheadings covering, according to the author, some of the most common mistakes Slovenian native speakers make in writing. Interestingly, official resources not only cover all of them, but they are also invoked both through some terminology used in Pravipis and in the bibliography. Thus, although it is based on the author’s intuition and is clearly uninfluenced by (descriptive) linguistic methodology, Pravipis is nevertheless primarily a rearticulation of institutional resources, making it stand out among usage guides in some respects.

What is more, Pravipis has a Facebook page through which the author communicates with her followers. Passages from the usage guide are rarely invoked there – rather, the page tends to post actual Slovenian texts and express Kocmut’s disdain of them. The page then invites its followers to point out the mistakes and correct them (such as in this recent example), and debates sometimes emerge in the comments. With this, Pravipis has become a multimedia interactive usage guide, even if the media in which it appears are mostly separate from each other.


Kocmut, Aleksandra. 2013 [2012]. Pravipis: zbirka pogostih pravopisnih kavljev z nekaj napotki za brskanje po e-slovarjih. Ljubljana: Modrijan.

Published: March 2022