r ranson wrote:In my research, I haven't found a single person in the publishing industry that thought prescriptive grammar described rules of how to use the language. A style guide is in the name - a guide. Grammatical guides are also guides.
If you happen to have a background in academia or journalism, you will probably be familiar the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style. Those are great resources for writing in general, particularly for grammar and syntax,
I have an academic background and I was required to purchase and use the Chicago Manual of Style. In my day, it was called Turabian after the now long dead first author. It still has a section on grammar. The latest edition asked Bryan Garner to do the grammar section. Are you familiar with the CMS and B Garner? Above, from Write the Docs group notes that CMS and the AP Stylebook both have sections on grammar and syntax.
It sounds like you are saying that in a class you took, you were required to follow the guidelines in the Turabian (Chicago) Manual of Style.
Teachers/departments/universities choose one style guide to teach students...
... how to follow instructions (students sometimes have opinions that their way is the right way and learning that they can't always have their way is often part of the curriculum.)
... how to be internally consistent throughout a document since this is pretty important if they want to make money with the written word
... that punctuation and style can have a huge effect on legibility and meaning
... that the teachers have a hard time dealing with inconstancy in citation and style. If every member of the class (and some classes have 400+ students) follows the same style, things are much easier to mark.
I'm not seeing how that equates to universal rules for all written English.
What I hear you say is that there are no universal rules for the English language. This makes sense.
However, it doesn't follow that style guides are wrong. It also doesn't follow that style guides are laying down universal rules. Maybe part of the proof you are offering is missing.
Then again, you do seem to be talking from an academic point of view. It's the same point of view they taught in university here. I can totally understand why you are saying this.
But since then, I've spent a lot of time talking with people in the publishing industry. Their point of view is very different than the one taught in university. I'm terribly ad hominem when confronted with two contradictory points of view. I look at the people exposing these views and ask "which is the most productive?" My linguistic and English teachers at uni produce a paper every four years and derive their income from teaching. Many of the publishers, printers, and authors I talked to produce enough work each year to derive their income from their writing skills. Since this is a matter of language, I also asked, "who is expressing themselves in a way that most people can understand?"
I had one prof that used to say "if you have to resort to jargon and long words to explain a concept, you do not understand it." She had us rewrite our essays until it could be understood by a ten-year-old.