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A friend gave me a little book to pass on to our local museum. But because Covid-19 closed the museum for the last couple of months, I’ve kept the book on my bedside table for occasional edification.
It’s called “Rules for the Conduct of Life” -- a large topic. Closer inspection reveals a less lofty goal. It was intended as an ethical guide for apprentices seeking to join the Freemen of the City of London.
The text contains 36 rules. I found it interesting that only four of the 36 rules were considered self-evident, capable of standing on their own.
All the rest include at least one text from the Bible. Sometimes two, or three. As if they needed an external authority to validate their wisdom.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: rules, authorities. Bible
I enjoy good discussions. On almost any topic. Although my aging body no longer allows some physical activities I once enjoyed, I haven’t lost my love of a lively discussion. Yet.
Along the way, though, I’ve learned that there are many ways of destroying a discussion -- from saying too much to saying too little.
Still, in my experience, the most pernicious fault is dragging in an external authority. Perhaps a quotation from a famous writer. A statement from a scientist, ripped out of context. A dictionary definition.
Or selected verses from the Bible.
Especially, perhaps, from the Bible. Because the Bible can be used to support almost any stance, from slavery to prostitution, from genocide to a flat earth. The same is probably true for the Qur’an, the Hindu Upanishads, and the Analects of Confucius. They were never written as reasoned arguments for a unified worldview.
Tags: rules, discussion
For a few years, I taught writing and editing courses for businesses. Some workshops flew; others foundered on the simplest points.
Pharmaceutical companies, in particular, often hired Asian immigrants. I’ve no doubt they were well qualified, highly trained, even brilliant. They had studied English. But they came from languages that didn’t use little things like prepositions. Or articles. Or even commas.
“Why you need ‘the’ before noun?” someone might ask.
Or perhaps, “Why sometimes ‘agree with,’ sometimes ‘agree to,’ sometimes ‘agree on’?”
I offered examples. They would ask, “Where we find book that teach us these rules?”
There isn’t one. Or more accurately, there are hundreds.
Tags: rules, Language, authorities, fluency
You probably had drilled into you, at school, a number of rules about writing:
· Never split an infinitive.
· Never start a paragraph with “I”.
· Never end a sentence with a preposition.
· Never start a sentence with “And” or “But”.
And you’ve spent most of your adult life trying to conform to those Never-Never rules, even when doing so required a mental hernia.
Those rules never were rules. Every one of the great English writers, the ones who set a model for us, broke those rules.
Tags: grammar, English, rules