Sotomayor loves Strunk and White

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People have begun to ask why Language Log hasn't yet commented on the remarks of Sonia Sotomayor about the sterling value of (you guessed it) Strunk & White. One recent commenter (here) actually seems to imply that we have jumped all over Charles Krauthammer solely because he is conservative, and shielded Sotomayor from criticism because she is the nominee of a Democratic president! Come on, you know us better than that. Sotomayor has come up in the comments area a few times (here and here, for example), and the only reason there hasn't been a full post on her remarks is — speaking for myself — lack of time (I don't know if you have any idea what early June is like for academics with administrative duties) plus a dearth of interesting things to say. You can read this piece on The National Review site for quotes and links to the relevant speeches. What she said about grammar in one speech (PDF here) was this:

If you have read Strunk and White, Elements of Style, reread it every two years. If you have never read it, do so now. This book is only 77 pages and it manages, succinctly, precisely and elegantly to convey the essence of good writing. Go back and read a couple of basic grammar books. Most people never go back to basic principles of grammar after their first six years in elementary school. Each time I see a split infinitive, an inconsistent tense structure or the unnecessary use of the passive voice, I blister. These are basic errors that with self-editing, more often than not, are avoidable.

What can I tell you? I am appalled to see yet another high-placed groveller at the shrine of Strunk'n'Whitery — and another promulgator of the truly absurd myth that the ill-named "split infinitive" construction is some kind of a mistake. I (yes, even I, who have said so much more than some of you wanted to read on the topic of The Elements of Style) haven't got much more to say on this, except I hope her taste in legal opinions turns out to be better than her taste in usage books. One more victim of the book that ate America's brain.

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