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English Usage GuidesHistory, Advice, Attitudes$
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Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198808206

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198808206.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
English Usage Guides

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade

Oxford University Press

Usage guides are an extremely popular genre, as is evident from new titles being published year after year and established ones being revised and reprinted. They are a marketable product, as both writers and publishers know. The genre did not start with Fowler, despite what many people think; it has a long history going back to the late eighteenth century. Usage advice today is also found online, while it was already the subject of satire in Punch during the nineteenth century. Yet how many usage problems there are is something authors—journalists, writers, but also linguists—show no consensus on. Usage problems come and go, and attitudes to them, expressed both by the general public and by usage guide writers, are found to change over the years. Some works remain remarkably conservative, which appears to be what is desired by readers who often feel insecure about what exactly proper English is.

Keywords:   Fowler, usage guides, usage problems, proper English, usage advice, linguistic insecurity

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