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Writing Worth Reading

Fear And Loathing Of The English Passive

George Orwell warned against the passive voice in English. Modern critics often echo him, but with a much shakier knowledge of grammar. This scholarly paper collects “numerous published examples of incompetent criticism in which critics reveal that they cannot tell passives from actives. The evidence demonstrates an extraordinary level of grammatical ignorance among educated English language critics” (PDF) (10,000 words)

Why Are We Still Waiting For Natural Language Processing?

“Try typing this, or any question with roughly the same meaning, into the Google search box: Which UK papers are not part of the Murdoch empire? Your results (and you could get identical ones by typing the same words in the reverse order) will contain an estimated two million or more pages about Rupert Murdoch and the newspapers owned by his News Corporation. Exactly what you did not ask for” (753 words)

One Rule To Ring Them All

On the correct use of “who” and “whom”. The news is generally bad for purists. “There seems to be no agreed unitary rule governing the inflection of who where it functions as subject of a clause to which it is not adjacent”

Organic Syntax

You would think a product called Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread would be organic, yes? Think again. “Why did I not see the obvious syntactic danger? Some grammarian, I thought to myself later, when I saw what I’d missed”

BBC’s Passive Ignorance

Evisceration of BBC style guidance on passives. “Journalists who believe the drivel about passives being bad are just imbibing tired old nonsense repeated by generations of usage-pontificating idiots plagiarising from each other”

The Passive In English

Everything there is to be known about the passive voice. Prepare to be met by the copula, the preterite, the stranded preposition. Your starter for 10: “That rash needs looking at by a specialist”. Was that a passive clause?

Diplomat, Bishop, Bomber, Fruitbat

On free speech, and its limits. How best to deal with a diplomat who curses Jews, a bishop who mocks the monarchy, a joker who tweets a bomb threat, and a biologist with a risqué sense of humour?

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