Why this website and blog? And why titled The Dean’s English?
My best short answer for those questions is that I believe one of the most important keys to effective living is effective communication. For Americans at least, a key to effective communication is developing a strong command of the English language, both spoken and written. I’ll refer to those as Standard English (SE) and Standard Written English (SWE).
Growing up, I had a mother who cared deeply about writing and speaking English “correctly,” even though she was a farmer’s daughter with only a high school education. Her passion rubbed off on me. I am well familiar with the decades-long debate in academia about what constitutes “correct English,” or whether there even is such a thing. But ask any writer who hopes people will actually read his or her stuff if clear, concise, coherent, and, yes, correct writing is important. Go ahead, ask one . . . I’ll wait.
Because I was tall, gangly, unathletic, and geeky as a kid, in eighth grade I resolved to compensate for perceived inadequacies by building my vocabulary. It was something I could do. My parents’ bookcase was sparsely stocked, but they owned two or three volumes with titles like 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and Word Power Made Easy, which I devoured. Thus were the seeds planted for what I would eventually become: a logophile, usage snoot, grammarian, and “language maven” (a term intended by linguists like popular author Stephen Pinker to be a good cut—damning with faint praise—but which I claim and wear proudly).
Many professional linguists and lexicographers, champions of descriptivism, scoff at usage snoots like me, interlopers in their regal realm who allegedly major in grammatical minors and nitpick endlessly at others’ misuse of language. In their view, language mavens cling tenaciously to an outdated notion that English has a “correct” form that must remain unchanged forever. They are certain that grammarians insist on silly and long ago debunked rules such as “never end a sentence with a preposition” and “never split an infinitive”—neither of which has been an issue in grammar manuals for over a hundred years. Rest assured, that straw-man argument does not apply to me and is not what I’m about.
My purpose isn’t to wag a long, bony finger in anyone’s face to make them feel bad about their use of language and grammar. Further, I fully realize that English is an ever-evolving language, and I have no intention of preserving the current version in stone tablets. However, I do believe firmly that some versions of spoken and written English are to be preferred over others. Thus my purpose here—in some ways my life purpose—is twofold: (1) to promote SE and SWE so that speakers and writers of English can communicate more effectively, and (2) to resist today’s cultural slide toward semiliteracy. Along the way, I’d like to help by copyediting a few things here and there.
So why the title The Dean’s English? It’s my tongue-in-cheek twist on The King’s (or Queen’s) English and a classic one hundred ten-year-old H. W. and F. G. Fowler book by that title. A dean is an academic official—which I am not, but at the same time I am. . . . Dean, that is. Putting it all together, in my slightly warped mind, it just made sense to call this blog The Dean’s English.
I hope you enjoy this website and blog. I welcome your questions and comments.
My copyediting credentials
By profession, temperament, and long experience, I am an educator (college counselor, instructor, and administrator), with master’s degrees in education and ministry leadership. In addition, I earned a Specialized Certificate in Copyediting from UC San Diego Extension in 2011. Since then I’ve edited book manuscripts, newsletter articles, advertising flyers, journal articles, and website content for multiple clients (see a sampling on my Testimonials page).
For fun and relaxation—and to stay sharp professionally—I am constantly reading books and journal articles on language, grammar, usage, and writing. See “My Bookshelf” page for more on that.