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In praise of American English

US English gets a bit of a bad press this side of the Atlantic. I guess we smug Brits tend to assume that, as we have Shakespeare and we were around before our transatlantic cousins, our version of the language pretty much slam-dunks any other contender.

I’ve never subscribed to that. While my first language is British English, for years my press card said “American Journalist in London” on it, so I wrote with the AP Style Guide and Strunk & White at my elbow. That means I’m pretty au fait with both ways of communicating and have to say I love the way US English pares down and simplifies the language, using fewer words but using them well. And don’t get me started about Hemingway.

I accept that is is a matter of opinion and I don’t intend to walk in Argos with a magic marker and cross out all the “ue”s on their catalogs. But one thing I have noticed recently is that the US mainstream media seem to have many more articles about grammar and lexicography than ours.

Sure, we have Lynne Truss, but both the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal have regular columns on linguistic usage, they really aren’t the only ones. Does that mean that American readers care more about their language than British readers? Or maybe American journalists and editors are more enthusiastic grammarians than their Fleet Street colleagues? Who knows? Not me.

Anyway, I like that sort of thing. If you like that sort of thing, here are a few articles I’ve read and liked recently. I hope you like them too.

They, as a singular. From the WSJ.

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