Talk:Common English usage misconceptions

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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 ), 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: 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)

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)

Disputes in English grammar[edit]

Some of the "disputes" presented in the above-named wik/en article are listed as "misconceptions" in the article of this talk page. It sure seems that one of them is "wrong" -- or at least not Wikipediaish.Kdammers (talk) 22:57, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

I came here from that above article, and will be posting there shortly - its just base line wrong on many points: The "disputes" are simply prescriptions some people hold to - or perhaps at least in part, reflect former usage patterns, but not current ones (and thus, ie don't really make much of a dispute...). So yea, in my view, taking these as "wrong usage" is a misconception. Well, lets see if I get round to changing or merging that other article, but its funny that this article is marked as "neutrality disputed" and the other one isn't ... :P . (talk) 14:21, 7 August 2015 (UTC)