Talk:Common English usage misconceptions

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Guidelines[edit]

Since this is a new article, some restrictions might be useful. But, there's plenty of room for expansion, so no need to be overly protective I think. Since this could easily degrade into entries about disputed usage, I propose (as it stands now) that all entries must:

(1) show that the misconception is widespread
(2) focus on the misconception, not any dispute on usage
(3) be supported by at least one reliable source that outlines both 1 and 2 above

--Airborne84 (talk) 03:45, 28 May 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 0x0077BE (talkcontribs)

Peer Review Archived WHERE?[edit]

At the head of this page is currently a paragraph reading "Common English usage misconceptions received a peer review by Wikipedia editors, which is now archived. It may contain ideas you can use to improve this article." The links therein do not lead to the archived review, but only to articles on the concepts. I am at a loss to know how I am supposed to find the referenced archive.

When and if I decide where to post this question w/ a chance of being answered sooner (yes, I'm reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Questions ), I'll do that. GeorgeTSLC (talk) 23:47, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

It is in the Edit section. For more information on peer review archives, see WP:PR John Holmes II (talk) 01:13, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

I found it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Peer_review/July_2011#List_of_common_English_usage_misconceptions Mr. Swordfish (talk) 20:05, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

I have now updated the archive link in the header to point to the old peer review (article was renamed). --Boson (talk) 10:28, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

Neutrality[edit]

There is no objective source of "correctness" in English, there are simply practices and opinions. This page affirms that position that the way some schoolchildren are taught English is actually incorrect. It would be more objective to say that these teachings are criticized or that the rules are disputed. It is also objective to point out cases where a majority accepts a certain practice in a given register, where widely accepted style guides all agree, and where professional practice in some or most cases runs against a minority opinion. The title is also non-neutral for similar reasons; I think it would be more objective as "Disputes in English usage" just like we have Disputes in English grammar which should probably be merged. -- Beland (talk) 16:43, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

Your first sentence is correct and is the foundation of this article. If there is no objective source of "correctness" in English (as you note), how can there be a "rule" that one shouldn't start a sentence with a preposition or one shouldn't split an infinitive, or people shouldn't start a sentence with specific conjunctions? There can't be. Yet, reliable sources have pointed out that there are misconceptions (or myths) that these rules can and do exist. One criterion for inclusion here is that the entry is reliably sourced as a misconception. It's not POV when reliable sources couch it in these terms. --Airborne84 (talk) 00:24, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
I'd also offer that the concern about the title/content being POV is a larger issue than this article. See below:
Short of putting POV tags on all of these and related articles, you may want to raise your concern in a different Wikipedia forum. --Airborne84 (talk) 17:06, 18 March 2012 (UTC)
I think the current page can be distinguished from these examples, which generally deal with cases in which there is a strong consensus of authoritative sources that these "misconceptions" and "misunderstandings" are in fact mistaken. The lack of any objective source of "correctness" is actually a reason not to label particular views as "misconceptions." A strong consensus of authority would be required for WP to take sides in such a fashion. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 18:54, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
But there is a strong consensus - it's pretty much the entire field of Linguistics vs. folk wisdom. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 21:54, 17 December 2013 (UTC)
I propose to remove the neutrality tag on the article. Given that this article is similar to those listed above that do not have tags, I'd suggest that the problem, if there is one, needs to be resolved in a different forum than this talk page. --Airborne84 (talk) 19:11, 9 April 2012 (UTC)
The other articles you point out concern scientific, historical, etc. claims about what is or was, which can be objectively assessed; this article concerns opinions about how people should speak. Apparently there is a dispute between a number of elementary school teachers and professional style guides, with the population of English speakers somewhat divided over which is correct. Is there any particular forum you would suggest in which to solicit more opinions, if you still feel that is necessary? -- Beland (talk) 02:59, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
I understand you think the article is about opinions regarding how people should speak or write. But it is actually a bit different. It starts out by pointing out that there is no "right" or "wrong" in English. However, misconceptions exists that there are firm rules about "right" and "wrong" in English. The inclusion criterions are listed at the top of the article.
I don't think that the title is POV because each of the included entries have to be sourced as a misconception. The sources state these as misconceptions, not the article, and the title simply reflects that this is a collection of sourced misconceptions. I understand that you think they are only disputes, but our opinions here as editors are not relevant. Only the opinions of reliable sources are.
Since you assert that the article violates WP:NPOV, please refer the rest of us to the specific passages in that policy that this article violates so that your concerns can be addressed. --Airborne84 (talk) 03:18, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
I agree with you Beland. An article with "misconceptions" in the title purports to know what is right and wrong. This is rarely possible in something as subjective as the English language. I have voiced my concerns about how the "irregardless section" is grossly biased but this is a symptom of a larger problem which is that this article probably shouldn't exist in the first place. Connor Behan (talk) 02:29, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
I admit that I have a bias towards linguistics as a science, but I get the impression that that's an acceptable bias to have in this sort of situation. I certainly think that this article walks a fine line, but I don't think that it's unreasonable to have a neutral article of this sort if it is totally descriptivist. People do have common misconceptions about English language and usage. People get the impression that the use of "they" as a gender-neutral, singular noun is a recent addition to the language, even though it has been in use since the time of William Shakespeare. That is a set of facts, not a set of opinions about what is "right" in English. As a general rule, I hardly think it's NPOV to explain the scientific consensus on the nature of language, even though I can imagine people will have strong opinions on the matter. 0x0077BE (talk) 17:52, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

@Airborne84: The definition of WP:NPOV says: "Editing from a neutral point of view (NPOV) means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic." Take for example this sentence in the article intro: "But not all commonly held usage violations are errors; many are held to be correct by sources that are just as reliable." This exposes a biased point of view: that the practices in question are not errors. But by the article's own admission, some reliable sources do consider them errors and others do not. It may be true that most people don't know that some commonly used authorities consider these practices non-errors, but that doesn't mean that they would agree with them. Clearly there is a significant number of people who do know about those authorities and disagree with them, including certain other authorities and historically notable grammarians. I think it would be more neutral to term these issues as disputes rather than misconceptions. We can educate our readers without telling them they are wrong at the same time. -- Beland (talk) 16:08, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

I agree with others who have objected that this page is insufficiently neutral. @Airborne84:'s claim basically boils down to that there is no such thing as "correct English," and thus all attempts to enforce any particular rule are "misconceptions." This is a bold claim, and many (including myself) would disagree. Even though there is no single authority, guidelines for best usage can be derived from historical consensus. These examples should all be rephrased in such a way that the controversy is maintained. That is, Wikipedia should not take sides in controversial matters unless the consensus of authority is strong. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 18:54, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

Sorry, I haven't been here for a while. The sentence in the lede was changed by someone a while back who was editorializing. I reverted it to its original state. The people in the poll perceived the "errors" to be true. Not "reliable sources."
There is already an article on Disputes in English grammar. To be included in this article, a reliable source must call a topic a "misconception." We can think of them as "disputes" on our own all we like. But there are no experts on Wikipedia. We only report what reliable sources state. As such, these are not my claims. They are the claims of reliable sources.
Consider though, that it is certainly possible to improve the article. If you believe that the position of one of the issues is not balanced properly to reflect the weight of experts' opinions on both sides, you can certainly add to an entry. This has been done in the past. An example is the entry on contractions. Although this is reliably sourced as a myth, there is material indicating that there are sources which disagree. So, the fact that there is disagreement is reflected. This does not change that there are reliable sources which call it a myth, which meets the criteria for inclusion in this article. Thanks for your interest. Airborne84 (talk) 21:58, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
It is still the job of Wikipedians to sort through the reliable sources and determine whether they have a unified voice on any particular question. Simply citing one RS that supports one side of a controversy is not sufficient to call the opposing side a "misconception" or a "myth."
The article text clearly picks and chooses the RSs to which it gives credit. For example, it acknowledges that "'irregardless' is dismissed as 'not a word' in some style guides" and even cites several examples. Yet the article forges ahead and labels that view a "misconception" because other RSs disagree with the aforementioned. That is only the first example that presented itself to me.
The Disputes in English grammar article that you cite is a great partner for this one, as it is mostly about the general topic of disputes, with only one section that briefly gives a few examples. I suggest that this article be retitled List of disputes in English grammar, or something similar, to align its treatment of the topic with the other. The great thing about labeling these questions as "disputes" is that it does not preclude the possibility that one side is definitively a "misconception" or a "myth," but neither does it insist upon that view. WP should creatively avoid questions that it is not equipped to answer. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 04:37, 15 December 2013 (UTC)
The problem is that changing the wording to "disputes" would ignore the fundamental point of this article:
1. There is no rule-setting authority in English, as there is in many other languages.
2. Consequently, there are no absolute rules in English.
3. People think there are anyway.
This article doesn't focus on disputes; there is already an article on that. It focuses on the fundamental misconceptions that exist from the lack of understanding about the above. Many people don't just think that there is a dispute about whether you can end a sentence in a preposition; they think that you cannot do it. It's against the "rules". This article illustrates in the lede that there are no firm rules and then covers what this means for many of the supposed "rules" that people think exist.
To change the wording to "disputes" is to recommend this article be merged with the article on "disputes". However, as long as the criteria noted at the top of the talk page are adhered to ((1) show that the misconception is widespread, (2) focus on the misconception, not any dispute on usage, and (3) be supported by at least one reliable source that outlines both 1 and 2), there is room for this article as well.
Keep in mind that, although you mention only "one RS", many of these entries reference multiple, high-quality sources, and others could be listed as well, if needed. If the article referenced primarily blogs and questionable sources, that would certainly be of concern.
Finally, to recommend doing away with this article suggests that the topic is not notable. But it is. The fact that many English usage experts who have published sources available for us have labeled many ideas about supposed English rules as myths and misconceptions makes this a notable topic. In fact, people have written books about this exact topic, such as O'Conner and Kellerman's Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. Certainly the topic has to be handled right, and I suggest that the best way to do that is to ensure that entries are adequately explained. Thanks for your time. Airborne84 (talk) 09:07, 15 December 2013 (UTC)
The weak point in your argument is your claim #2 that "there are no absolute rules in English." This is a bold and astounding claim, and I don't see that either the article text or you on this talk page have actually offered RS support for it.
Could decide I that should follow nouns verbs and could construct I my sentences in that way. But would be the result that would not understand you what am saying I.
Does the preceding paragraph employ "incorrect" English grammar? To answer negatively would lead to total chaos. To answer positively would entirely undermine your argument.
And who are all these people who think that there are rules, and who need to understand that they are mistaken? Aren't many of them the authors of reliable sources? I'm certainly not arguing that you are tendentious (i.e., my next link is included only for the section to which it points, not the entire article), but your motivation here seems dangerously close to the desire to right great wrongs, which is fundamentally not consistent with Wikipedia's purpose.
And let's be clear that I am not recommending that this article be merged with the article on "disputes". The simple reason is that it's too long, and would burden the Disputes in English grammar article with undue weight on one aspect of its topic. There is an established mechanism for one article (e.g., this one) to offer {{further}} {{details}} on a topic covered by part of a broader article (e.g., Disputes in English grammar). That's what I suggest. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 06:07, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
You're mixing rules and conventions. For example, it is only convention to start each sentence with a capital letter. It's not a "rule." E.g., "iPads are out of stock." Perhaps you can point to a "rule" that everyone in the English-speaking world must follow and the authority behind it?
And different countries with English-speaking citizens follow different conventions. If a body in the United States announced that it was going to start setting the standard for right and wrong in English, millions of people in India will simply laugh at the idea.
I understand your points. Please don't think that I don't. We do have English conventions that are widely followed within certain countries, and many times between them. However, if you want to relabel some of these things "disputes", you're making the case to the wrong people. You will have to make these arguments to the reliable sources noted in the article who are calling them "myths" and "misconceptions". We only report what they say here. To say that these authors are only calling these topics "disputes" would be incorrect and we would be misrepresenting their positions. Airborne84 (talk) 18:13, 16 December 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────In any case, I don't know if we will end up agreeing on the fundamental point which forms the basis for this article. But perhaps we can come to some common ground on the particulars? I didn't fully understand what you were suggesting in your final paragraph. But if it was providing additional information within the text of this article linking to disputes in other articles, I see little issue with that (side note, the "Disputes in English grammar" article is not particularly well-developed; e.g., the "examples" section has zero sources). I added "Disputes in English grammar" as a "See Also" link to this article and there is certainly room to link other passages and terms in the text to other articles as well as providing "detail" epigraphs/links to other articles under sub-headings if you'd like. That seems consistent with the point of an online encyclopedia. Will that work? Airborne84 (talk) 18:22, 16 December 2013 (UTC)

Well, we certainly won't end up agreeing if you continue to ignore my main points. You are not simply reporting what the sources say. You are taking certain sources and repeating their arguments in Wikipedia's voice, while disregarding or even arguing against other equally reliable sources.
"Rules and conventions" seem like equivalent concepts to me, at least in this context. Rules sometimes have exceptions, such as your "iPad" example, but that does not negate the existence of the rule. And as I have already said multiple times, the lack of a prescriptive authority does not mean that there are no rules. It's kind of like the difference between having a constitutional court and simply working with common law. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 05:06, 17 December 2013 (UTC)
An accurate (if awkward) title for this article would be Manifestations of the misconception that English has firm rules. My "editorial" statement in the lede implied that descriptivist sources holding double negatives to be correct are just as reliable as the prescriptivist style guides and teachers followed by the poll respondents. I guess you reverted it because you think the descriptivist sources are more reliable? I think the reason why certain sources seem to be favoured is that guides on usage and grammar do not preach about misconceptions. Their intended audience has already decided not to use the full range of "allowed" English. Connor Behan (talk) 09:58, 17 December 2013 (UTC)
@Connor Behan: You seem to be addressing me, but I have not edited the article in any way, much less reverted you. I have only offered suggestions here on the talk page.
Your suggested title is just as problematic as the current one, in my view, because the word "misconception" is inherently WP:POV*. I am saying that that the descriptivist and non-descriptivist sources should be given roughly equal weight, and I have noted before the beauty of a word like "dispute" in that it is just as appropriate when either side is clearly correct as it is when neither side is clearly correct. It simply excuses us from having to make a judgment, and that is the course I think we should follow. To use the word "misconception" in Wikipedia's voice* is to side with the non-descriptivist sources and to disregard the descriptivist sources, which is what this article currently does.
*To be clear, I have no objection to using the word "misconception" if it is presented as the opinion of certain sources. It is using the word in Wikipedia's voice – that is, as if Wikipedia has determined that one side in the dispute is right and the other is wrong – that is objectionable in this case. Per WP:RS and WP:V and WP:NOR and WP:NPOV, such a determination requires a high degree of unity among reliable sources, which we simply do not have in this case. --BlueMoonlet (t/c) 16:51, 17 December 2013 (UTC)
@BlueMoonlet: Sorry, I replied below you and indented, but my statement about the lede was to User:Airborne84. As for disputes vs misconceptions, I would feel better if this article referred to them as disputes. "A sentence must not end in a preposition?" The first person who told me this was a grade 6 or 7 teacher. Because I "believed her", I must've been under a misconception. But which one? Did I think that English had an official academy? Did I think that all grammarians were unanimous about not ending with prepositions? Did I think that no one had ever ended a sentence with a preposition before the 1900s? I simply did not give the issue much thought. Yes, it is a misconception to say that a sentence must not end in a preposition. But if you say that a sentence should not end in a preposition, this is a much more balanced dispute. I'm not sure how, but this article needs to do a better job differentiating between the should nots and the must nots. Even though you hear a lot of people make "grammar corrections", people who truly believe that some authority has defined English are relatively rare. Connor Behan (talk) 06:04, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
I tend to agree that few people truly believe that some authority has defined English - few people have thought about it in that depth. I also agree that A sentence must not end in a preposition. is a common misconception. But we don't need to establish the former as a common misconception in order to present the latter as one. It stands on its own; we don't need to place it into the context of a broader misconception about the existence of an official academy or unanimity among grammarians.
My view is that going off on a tangent about 'should' vs 'must' does not improve the article. All frenchmen are short is a misconception; Some Frenchmen are short is not a misconception, but is irrelevant to the actual misconception. Every misconception out there can be restated in a more equivocal form that is technically true. That doesn't mean there are no misconceptions, and when a misconception is identified as such by multiple reliable sources then it's our job to reflect that in the article. I understand that some contributors may not like it, but it's our job to reflect what's in the source material and not to re-cast it in a way that makes us "feel better" Mr. Swordfish (talk) 17:37, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
Reply to BlueMoonlet: You are taking certain sources and repeating their arguments in Wikipedia's voice, while disregarding or even arguing against other equally reliable sources.
Can you please provide examples of reliable sources that we (i.e. the editors of this page) are disregarding or arguing against? I'm skeptical that they are "equally reliable", but I could be persuased otherwise if provided with specific examples. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 19:58, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Any article about widespread misconceptions will necessarily be somewhat problematic since there will be many sources repeating the misconception, sometimes more than those refuting it. And some of the sources spreading the misconception will even meet the criteria for reliable source. Our job as editors is to evaluate the sources with the understanding that not all sources carry equal weight. We do a disservice to our readers if we present false balance by giving equal weight to less reliable sources.

For example, many books about birds incorrectly describe the physics of lift despite being otherwise reliable. When they differ from peer-reviewed physics & engineering papers, we as editors should accept the latter as being more reliable and present that description in the article. And if the more reliable sources describe the other description as a misconception it is our job to reflect that in the article. It is not a violation of NPOV, it's our job.

As for the present article, the contributors have done a good job of researching and citing expert sources to support the entries as misconceptions. Where there are sources that contradict one another I think the contributors have made the right call in which ones to present. I don't claim that it is perfect, but it's in keeping with the rules of NPOV. Again, it's our job to evaluate the quality of sources and make editorial judgements; merely throwing up our hands and saying "Shape of the Earth - views differ" is an abdication of duty.

For this reason I oppose renaming or merging with "disputed" and support removing the NPOV tag. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 19:57, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

Connor Behan, I agree with you that the misconceptions must be phrased as firm and absolute English rules (which don't exist). But I think they are already. If the misconception was labeled "A sentence should not end in a preposition" that would be problematic and subject to dispute (especially considering even the reliable sources cited in this article note that a sentence ending in an extraneous preposition is not good practice). But it is worded as "A sentence must not end in a preposition." Likewise, (1) "Infinitives must not be split," (2) "The words "and" and "but" must not begin a sentence," etc.
For BlueMoonlet, there is still plenty of room to improve this article. It is possible to add epigraphs/links under subheaders if applicable to further connect readers to articles which further elaborate on a topic. It is also possible to check to make sure the misconcpetions are worded unambiguously. There are also likely entries which can be added. You might, for example, be able to find reliable sources who note a common misconception that all sentences must begin with capital letters.... Airborne84 (talk) 17:12, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm glad the article already says "must not". But it seems like it makes the leap of assuming "uncommon misconception + common dispute associated with it = common misconception". Here is a hypothetical conversation:
Alice: You have a mistake in your essay. You said "the bill that senators are arguing about" instead of "the bill about which senators are arguing".
Bob: How is that a mistake? Who has the final say when languages change over time?
Alice: Ok fine, I guess your wording is allowed in that sense. But it goes against a convention that a lot of people have decided to follow.
Many people go around touting the misconception that sentences must not end in a preposition. But as soon as you ask them to qualify what they mean by "must not" they weaken their stance to something that is not a misconception. Because the misconceptions are so closely associated with the non-misconceptions, it sounds like this article is taking one side of a debate, even though it is technically neutral. Connor Behan (talk) 20:36, 18 December 2013 (UTC)
The article is not "making a leap". The statement of each misconception as well as the assertion that it is a common misconception comes from reliable sources. The editors of this page are not just making things up.
Your Bob and Alice scenario, while plausible, does not change the fact that there are many people asserting you must never end a sentence with a proposition., enough that several reliable sources cite it as a common misconception. You may disagree with that conclusion, and think that most people will weaken their stance when called out on it, but unless you have reliably sourced facts to support it, that opinion shouldn't factor into what goes into this article.
The article needs to stick to facts that are verifiable via reliable sources, not speculative conjecture about what people might say if asked certain questions. Reliable sources say it's a common misconception - unless someone can produce some other reliable sources contradicting that assertion (ie ones refuting its commonality or its misconception-ness) there should be no argument here.
In sum, the contributors to the article have cited their sources and backed up the facts presented in the article. I have yet to see similar evidence on the other side from this article's detractors. Until reliably sourced material is presented contradicting the facts in the article, we're just spinning our wheels. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 22:26, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Retitle?[edit]

My two cents are that while this article's concept isn't unsalvageable as far as neutrality goes, it shouldn't be titled simply "Common English usage misconceptions" (which contradicts the page's thesis by implying that correctness in English can be determined by something other than majority opinion), but something like "List of controversial English usage conventions that are upheld by [insert OED or other linguistic authority here]". Tezero (talk) 20:24, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

Proposed merger/deletion[edit]

I disagree with a merger/deletion of this article. I commented on it here as well. I call it a deletion because the mergers discussed effectively delete any sourced notion of "misconception" regarding English usage from Wikipedia. I don't know why this is such an issue, but the topic of English usage misconceptions is notable. The article is well-referenced and each entry provides reliable sources stating that there is a misconception. If it is notable and has reliable sources informing it, there can be an article about English usage misconceptions on Wikipedia.
I'll once again restate the central theme of the article which seems to pass by some readers. There are many people who believe that you absolutely cannot, or must not do something in English usage (such as end a sentence in a preposition). As is noted in the lede, there is no central authority that provides firm rules. And when usage shows differently, reliable sources will point out that the common belief of cannot or must not is simply incorrect. This is different than an argument that one should not end sentences in a preposition. The latter idea could certainly go in a "disputes" article. But that is different from a misconception that you cannot do it. Hopefully that will help delineate between the two topics. --Airborne84 (talk) 16:09, 17 January 2015 (UTC)
My thoughts are that while English indeed has no central governing authority and would not likely respond well to one, this article comes off more like a giant middle finger to prescriptivists than a serious academic piece. There are plenty of reliable sources that would support a position conducive to an article like "Immorality of same-sex marriage" or "Stupidity of people who like the Star Wars prequels", but those wouldn't really be suitable for Wikipedia articles, at least not unless balanced out with discussion of the viewpoints themselves. Likewise, I don't think it's reasonable to rag on about how all of these grammatical conventions are actually fine and prescriptivists are mean old farts without examining what others have to say about this position on them. Tezero (talk) 08:04, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
We shouldn't be overly concerned if some people read this, think it is incompatible with their personal views, and find it objectionable as a result. WP:NOTCENSORED covers this with: "Wikipedia may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive, even exceedingly so. Wikipedia cannot guarantee that articles or images will always be acceptable to all readers."
However, I don't disagree with your position that there is more to be said on many of the topics within this article. That discussion that falls outside of "misconceptions" and is in the realm of controversies or disputes can find a home in the appropriate article and readers can find more there through links. Thanks. Airborne84 (talk) 13:23, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
I have to agree with Tezero, so a rename would be a good thing. Common disagreements over English usage might be good. The specific words might well belong elsewhere. The typography is hardly "English usage". All the best: Rich Farmbrough20:15, 26 January 2015 (UTC).
Let me expand a little: With the current title one might include the example Airbourne gave "Sentences need to begin with capital letters" or "Sentences need a verb." or "Words fall into grammatical categories." or "Number must agree." or pretty much any didactic statement about English usage. The distinction between prescriptivist and descriptivist is a false one, as the prescriptivist describes an ideal, while the descriptivist provides prescription for replicating an actuality. What makes English usage bad is if it unintentionally impedes the understanding of the target audience. And this is something that to unthinkingly flout established rules is not unlikely to go hand-in-hand with. Just as insisting one's name is spelled with symbols will distract from any message one is trying to convey. Therefore even while the basis for these "rules" may be shaky, there is, or was a constituency where breaking them would be de facto incorrect.
Thus while someone using a descriptivist lexicon might argue the "irregardless" is a perfectly cromulent word, the descriptivist postion for England of Shakespeare's day, or for the English of a JCR would be that there "ain't no sich word" except perhaps in the latter case as an object of discussion, or satire. All the best: Rich Farmbrough20:42, 26 January 2015 (UTC).

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I understand some folks don't like the article and would prefer to rephrase the entries within as "disagreements" or "disputes" or something like that. But I doubt that will stop reliable sources from talking about these topics in terms of misconceptions or myths. They'll just carry on doing it. For example, we have the following works that the article doesn't interpret, it simply reflects back at us:

  • Mignon Fogarty's article "Top Ten Grammar Myths" which contains entries on "'Irregardless' is not a word", "Passive voice is always wrong", "You shouldn't split infinitives", and "You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition."
  • The book Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, which covers "imaginary taboos" such as "Don't split an infinitive", "It's wrong to end a sentence with a preposition", "It's wrong to start a sentence with and or but", "Never use a double negative", etc.
  • The book The Elephants of Style by Bill Walsh that has a chapter called "Lies your English Teacher Told You: The Big Myths of English Usage" which tells us about "Split Infinitives, "Ending Sentences With Prepositions, "Beginning Sentences With Conjunctions", "Passive Voice", etc.
  • The book called Language Myths by Bauer and Trudgill
  • The article "Top Five Phony Rules of Writing" by Richard Norquist including "Never begin a sentence with 'And' or 'But,'" among others.
  • The book Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language by O'Connor and Kellerman

You'll notice the same entries in the article based on the exact same idea: an absolute English "rule" becomes a misconception when (1) many people think it exists but (2) style guides, reference grammars and actual usage contradict it. Wikipedia didn't invent this idea of common misconceptions in English usage. The reliable sources listed above did. We're just reporting it. Thanks. Airborne84 (talk) 21:48, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Something's not quite right, though. They're not discussing "myths" in the context of Zeus, Ra, or Huitzilopochtli, but clearly in a disparaging way. It's not in accordance with WP:NPOV to echo reliable sources' viewpoints if they're not deemed factual in nature. Tezero (talk) 22:02, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

oppose merger/deletion of this article. The "disputes" article and this misconceptions article are distinct topics and merging them would confuse things. I don't really have a position on the name of the other article. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 13:21, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

WP:NPOV doesn't say that topics that present a POV can't be covered. The policy says that the central theme of an article can't be covered in a POV manner. If the former were true, we'd have to delete hundreds of thousands of articles on Wikipedia.
Tezero, please also read the lede of the article to understand the premise that these sources use which is actually fact-based. I saw your comment in the thread above this one that the article might be better as ""List of controversial English usage conventions that are upheld by [insert OED or other linguistic authority here]". But this is nearly the opposite of what these reliable sources are actually saying.
On a side note, it might be fruitful to use a FAQ section as this is a recurring issue (people missing the logic the reliable sources are using). Either it is not clearly enough presented in the lede or people are skipping the lede, reading the entries, and just going to the talk page. Airborne84 (talk) 19:59, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Comment: The mergeto template currently links to the destination talk pages for discussion, as is usual, but the discussion is apparently being held here, so I will change the link to point here. --Boson (talk) 21:28, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

@Airborne84: I would interpret a respected source saying "it's a misconception that it's incorrect to end a sentence with a preposition" as an opinion, not a fact. There are other sources claiming that this is not a misconception, it's just a common mistake. It can be a fact that such constructions are in fact used by respected authors, it can be a fact that there was no such rule before the 1600, and it can be a fact that the majority of speakers accept a construction, but a critic of such grammar can argue that even though something is being done by the majority, the majority is doing it incorrectly and should stop. When one party calls something a misconception and the other calls it a true rule, that's a dispute. -- Beland (talk) 01:20, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Our job is to fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources. Wikipedia is mot merely a collection of facts and if a "viewpoint" is held by the overwhelming majority of prominent sources then it should be represented here regardless of whether it may be considered "opinion".
In your example of ending a sentence with a preposition, look at the two sides of the "dispute". On one side you have basically folklore and on the other side you have professional linguists with PhD's and this viewpoint is virtually unanimous. Please do some research and see what sources you find on each side - I think you'lll find that it's not a dispute at all. Calling it a "dispute" would be a serious mis-representation along the lines of "The shape of the earth is disputed - some say it is flat, some say it is round."
In sum, the material in this article fairly represents the significant viewpoint found in reliable sources that these items are misconceptions, not merely disputes.
Which is why I strongly oppose renaming this article as "Disputes in English usage". If any of these are truly disputes they need to be removed from this article. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 13:24, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Support merge, mainly so that relevant stylistic viewpoints and grammatical facts can be discussed in one place and given due weight.
In article titles, the word "misconception" should be reserved for mistaken beliefs about facts. A missguided opinion that something should not be done because it is allegedly "wrong" is not the same as a misconception that something is factually incorrect. There may indeed have been a misconception that the so-called "split infinitive" is grammatically incorrect or that the passive voice is always (grammatically?) incorrect. However these former, or even existing, misconceptions are better discussed as fringe views within the broader discussion of controversies about whether the "split infinitive" or the passive voice should be avoided, or are generally avoided. This discussion would include the misconceptions in an appropriate context, which is difficult in an article that must deal only with misconceptions.
If this article does remain, it will be necessary to remove those parts which describe differing opinions on style rather than incorrect beliefs as to what is factually true. For instance, the subjective view that the passive voice (or all four-letter words) should always be avoided may be inappropriate, even ridiculous, but it is not a misconception.
Saying that a statement like "there have been mistakes" should be avoided "because it uses the passive voice" would be evidence of a misconception. The statement "the habitual use of the active voice makes for forcible writing" may demonstrate an idiosyncratic use of English and it may be bad advice, but it does not, itself, indicate a misconception. It is necessary to provide reliable sources that specifically indicate the existence of a misconception, rather than a minority – even fringe – view concerning style.
The alleged misconception must not be stated in the form of a straw man, even if this is done by sources, but especially if it is not done by reliable sources. For instance, if a source has ". . . Never split an infinitive. ... Never use the passive voice. ..." Wrong. Wrong." this is evidence that an author strongly disagrees with somebody else's stylistic advice, and it may help sell books, but it is not sufficient evidence that there is a misconception. In an article entitled "Common English usage misconceptions", stating an alleged misconception as " The passive voice is incorrect." implies that there is a common belief that the passive voice is always incorrect (suggesting "grammatically incorrect"). But, in fact, the paragraph mainly discusses the (bad) advice that the passive should be avoided, which is a different issue. The actual (apparent) misconceptions (which the cited Pullum talks about) are are only mentioned in passing.
--Boson (talk) 15:43, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
If the cited source uses the term "misconception" it is our duty to present it that way. If we change what the sources are saying then we are injecting our own WP:POV into the article. It seems that this is what you are advocating. Whether you think "dispute" is a more appropriate term is irrelevant. What do the sources say? They call these items "misconceptiions".
That said, I'm open to challenges to specific items. If they genuinely are a dispute and not a misconception then let's move them. Mr. Swordfish (talk) 18:29, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Please refer to the very first entry where the criteria for entry were discussed. Also, the word "myth", in the sense relevant here, also counts as a common misconception, as it is a "A widely held but false belief or idea"' according to the Oxford Dictionary, or "an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true", at Merriam Webster. That is used in the passive voice entry and others. This convention (using "myth" as well) is also used at other misconception articles here such as List of common misconceptions as a criterion for inclusion. Thanks. Airborne84 (talk) 22:23, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

comment/delete. The articles on controversies and misconceptions have the same scope. That's not to get into misconceptions being non-neutral wording. It doesn't actually matter that RS say misconceptions as reliability is separate from neutrality (WP policy is clear on that). These are all wp:biased because they are all written by people who are either prescriptive or descriptive. The entire debate over misconceptions and disputes are not really about misconceptions and disputes of English, but rather disputes between descriptivism and prescriptivism. These articles are may as well be called 'examples of English elements prescriptivists dislike' and, when put like that, it becomes apparent that they not should exist. They're almost like tabloid pieces; very common, but not very encyclopaedic. If the article exists it should make crystal clear that this is in fact a disagrement between the two positions and not between 'correct' and 'incorrect' English. Hollth (talk) 18:24, 19 February 2015 (UTC)