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  • Mark Allen

Twitter is a great place for a conversation

In a year of discovery on Twitter, I have acquainted myself with an amazing group of editors, linguists, lexicographers and other word lovers. I don’t consider myself an expert on language, just a practitioner. I haven’t diagrammed a sentence in 30 years. And I am much better at cleaning up other people’s copy than I am at avoiding my own mistakes.

A longtime debate among some word aficionados is whether language rules should be enforced or whether we should let language evolve. It seems a silly debate. Of course, both are true. Language would not exist without conventions, but those conventions evolve to fit changing times. Sometimes this evolution is based on fashion; sometimes it is based on utility.

As a newspaper copy editor, my job was to enforce rules and put up at least an honorable defense to change. Language can be wild and confusing, and trendiness can get in the way of the basic goal of language: clarity. Newspape