Sunday, 10 June


A 11:20–12:00

John Linnegar, Garnering those usage and style gremlins: Revealing the contemporary even-handedness of GMEU


Language practitioners nowadays have to grapple with many English grammar, usage and style issues when improving texts, and cannot do so authoritatively with at least one vademecum to hand. But which authorities to consult? Most of the available references are either outdated and a bit stuffy (eg Fowler’s MEU, Partridge, Treble & Vallins) or biased in favour of either AmE or BrE (New Hart’s Rules, Chicago Manual of Style). Yet others are avowedly either prescriptivist or descriptivist. So if one needs information on either or both Englishes, accessing it can be a problem.

In this respect, Bryan Garner’s magnum opus – Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU, Oxford University Press, 2016) – is an answer to many practitioners’ prayers, for four main reasons: first, the text and content are based on an analysis of a massive corpus that determines many of Garner’s observations and recommendations on contemporary usage; second, while he tends to favour a descriptivist approach to usage, he does not shy away from sound prescriptivist conventions when necessary, even if only to present a balanced view on the status quo (which sometimes goes about the difference between AmE’s conservatism versus BrE’s more ‘liberal’ approach); third, he presents what is currently the most balanced account of both AmE and BrE usage. (Remember GB Shaw’s witty ‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’? Garner shows us how in some respects it is the case, in others it ain’t.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly for us 21st-century mortals, the text is written in the plainest, most accessible English (unlike many of the guides of the last century).

Being a recent addition to the literature (June 2016), GMEU is relatively unknown among, let alone used by, practitioners who have to grapple with contemporary English usage – whether AmE or BrE – and make decisions about which is appropriate. This session attempts to reveal (almost) all.


About the presenter

John Linnegar 2Until 2010, like many other editors, John Linnegar had little idea of how to distinguish between the nuanced three levels of editing (and that after 30 years in the game!). Then he began researching the subject, only to find that less than a handful of authors had written about it! It’s their ideas — plus his own guide to how possibly to quantify the levels in specific editing tasks — that he will be sharing and workshopping, using a set of real texts.

John has been a text editor, proofreader and indexer of school and academic textbooks, reports and journal articles since the 1970s. For almost 20 years he has trained generations of editors, proofreaders and indexers. During this time he has published several books on aspects of language usage and editing, including Engleish, our Engleish: Common errors in South African English and how to resolve them (NB Publishers, 2009) and Text Editing: A handbook for students and practitioners (UPA, Brussels, 2012). Now based in Antwerp, Belgium, he is a member of a number of professional associations, including SENSE, MET and Australian and South African societies and a regular presenter at conferences. His postgraduate research is on the mentoring of language practitioners online.