August 18, 2014

AP's Change on 'Over' Is Less Than Meets the Eye



The Associated Press Stylebook recently changed its stance against using "over" to mean "more than." End of the world as we know it? Nah.

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Letting Go of Bad Teaching -- Or Not
Posted by June on August 18, 2014

The people who read my column tend to be older than the people who read this blog. Just today I got an e-mail from someone talking about what he was taught in school in the 1940s.

So perhaps that sheds a little light on a very common dynamic that occurs between me and my column readers.

I’ll write a column saying something like, “A lot of people are taught that it’s wrong to (blank),” with “blank” being any of a hundred different grammar issues, “However, it’s not wrong to (blank), as evidenced by X, Y, and Z sources and also by A, B, and C sources.”

Then, very often, I’ll get an e-mail that basically says the following.

“I was taught that it’s wrong to (blank).”

No kidding. It happens a lot. They’re not writing to argue the rule or to challenge my sources or to question the wisdom of choosing to blank. They state only that they were taught that blanking is wrong. As if this were news to someone who just wrote a column about how people were taught it’s wrong.

It’s interesting. It’s as though they’re so steeped in an idea they were taught long ago -- so invested in it -- that their only response to learning they were taught something wrong is to say that they were taught it.

I guess I can relate to how hard it is to let go of ideas. But it’s interesting to get these e-mails because they suggest the possibility that the longer you’ve held an idea the harder it is to even hear the position of someone who disagrees.

Readers of this blog often disagree with me, too. But when they do, they construct rational arguments or cite sources or point out some aspect of the situation I may have overlooked. They never say simply, “I was taught that blanking is wrong.”

Could be as simple as the difference between blog readers and community newspaper readers. Still, it’s interesting ...


June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

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