Re: The Main Problem

Eric Crump (
Sun, 22 Oct 1995 20:44:12 -0500

On Sun, 22 Oct 1995, John Priestley wrote:
> practices we do not ourselves engage in. But writing must to some extent
> be rule-governed, or it fails to communicate. Absolute prescriptivity is,
> as you note, ridiculous; but the opposite extreme...


I think you may be extrapolating in the wrong direction if you assign the
opposite to 'anything goes.' I don't think that's necessarily the direction
Fred's rant goes if you take it to an extreme.

This is how I read what he's saying: The opposite of prescriptivity is
*descriptivity*, not anarchy. That is, writing is not rule governed, it
is rule-generating. Writers engaged in the act (of writing) produce the
rules they need and apply them as necessary. Rules are
subordinate to the needs of writers, they are *in service*
to writers, not the other way around. Prescriptivity, on the other hand,
is the other way around. It is the artificial maintenance of rules in
spite of any relevance they have to living, breathing, word-spitting

Fred's not arguing against rules, he's arguing against
dis-engaged writers (since there ain't no such thing as a
non-writer in academic culture) enforcing irrelevant rules.

--Eric Crump