The 20 Most Controversial Rules in the Grammar World

Writing is not as simple as it may look from the outside. Some people may see sites like Neatorama and think writing is easy and they want to do it, but the truth is, there are many rights and wrongs when it comes to grammar. It is stuff you may remember learning in grade school and on, but if you are not a writer, they are rules you tend to forget about. How many times a day on Facebook do you see someone use the wrong version of the word "there"? That is just one of many examples of how grammar can slip you up if you are not paying attention. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to grammar and all its fine-print.

Online College actually has a remarkable list of the 20 most controversial rules in grammar. Being one who uses the language often and every day for my work, I find this list incredibly helpful at pointing out some of the sillier rules of grammar whilst also reminding us why those rules actually exist. A good example here is about the word "irregardless":

"Irregardless" appears in at least three different official dictionaries, though all of them admit it's not exactly formal. More traditional grammar aficionados don't think the word deserves to move beyond its slang origins, while others think it's about time the rule-makers acknowledge the evolution.

That is but one of twenty remarkable facts about grammar and writing that anyone who has the slightest interest in the medium should check out with aplomb. 

Check out more amazing talents over at our Mad Skills blog

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My point is that, as I learned from Language Log, personal experience can be misleading. There could be geographical variation in use, and it may be that a term which was more common in architecture is no longer used, perhaps as reaction to its uptake in other domains. In researching this more, it appears that many architects use "to architect" as a shibboleth, to distinguish in- and out- group members. See for a deeper discussion of this.

That link also observes that architect Doug Patt has a YouTube series and book from MIT press titled "How To Architect", that "to architect" is well recognized as a verb in many dictionaries, and Harvard architecture theorist K. Michael Hays said "There are only certain things that can be done at this moment. Not just anything can be architected at this moment, right? There are limits." So there's a couple of modern architects who use it as a verb.

If I relax it a bit, and not look specifically for phrases said by architects but about architects, then Life magazine, 17 May 1948 has a piece on Bernard Maybeck. "He architects not only buildings but everything from landscapes to kitchen utensils, including people. For years he architected all his wife's clothes, solemnly making blueprints of skirts, blouses and gowns, and turning her at least into Berkeley's most imaginatively dressed woman. He even architected his own pants, which for years became one of San Francisco's most noted sartorial institutions."

Now, Life magazine could have been doing wordplay there, but dictionaries list "architect" as a verb because many people use it as a verb - including those like Twain who can distinguish between a verb and a noun. For example, FDR at a press conference in 1943 said "Well, of course, actually, when Congress makes an appropriation for a given public project, unless it has been all engineered and architected, and the specifications drawn beforehand, necessarily it's just like any private individual building a building.", or Thomas Jefferson Gregory in 1913 writing "There was no ornamentation without or within and little variety of form anywhere, and while every man was his own architect and builder he architected and built like his neighbor."

(I quite like the parallelism of noun and verb forms in that last quote.)

"Architect" has also long been used for things other than buildings. Quoting a lecture from 1915, "The architect was none other than Otto von Bismarck, who by his policy of iron and blood did what German liberalism had failed to do." More recently (1978), "The principal architect of the Constitution was John Adams." There's also "Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon ... architect of Brazil's current policy toward indigenous peoples" and "Deng Xiaoping was the chief architect of Chinese economic reform".

If someone in business claims to have "architected" something, then I'm pretty sure it was more in line with organizational or policy schemes like Bismark, etc. than physical forms like Le Corbusier. After all, there's over 100 years of people using "architect" that way.

Also, in the 1960s the computer industry started to use "architecture" a lot, and it hasn't left. Indeed, it seems like that industry is the source to 95% of the "architected" references I found on Google Books. I like Tracy Kidder's observation, in "House", which pointed out a class distinction. Builders and designers are more working class or blue collar, while an architect is more likely to have the education and breeding similar to the home owner. Some architects exploit that, to argue that they will be on the home owners side. I think the computer industry expropriated this division. Programmers do the manual labor of coding and perhaps designing smaller parts of the software, while software architects - often perceived as a higher class, more white-collar position - plan the large-scale organization and work more directly with the customer.

For what it's worth, spell checker's don't like my field of research, "cheminformatics". ;)
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Well, I can speak from personal experience that neither me, nor any of my architect friends ever say anything other than "designed". And I never heard a prof, nor any of the architects I've ever worked for/with use the term "architected". I only hear it used by people outside of the profession, and usually only as a fairly-recent bit of "business speak". In fact, most of the people I know in the AIA find it quite irritating when people use it as a verb, since they claim to have "architected" something yet would probably only reply with a befuddled look when asked about Le Corbusier.
I'm sure I'm just overly sensitive to it since it's a world I'm involved in as opposed to those who merely reference it. I'll own it as my hang up.

But still, my spell checker here keeps red underlining every instance of it I just typed. :P
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That's certainly an hypothesis. The question is, do you have any evidence to back it? One of the things that Language Log taught me is that these sorts of questions can often be researched, without needing to depend only on one's personal experience.

For example, the word "architected" occurs in Tracy Kidder's 1985 non-fiction "House": 'Thinking of the Souweines' house, Bill says, "Single-family houses are mainly not architected. But they have been a means for architects to acquire reputations."' It's on p22 of my hardcover copy, and 'Bill' is the architect Bill Rawn, who won an award for his design, and was featured in a July 5, 2009 Boston Globe article. In other words, you say "actual architects say "designed"", yet I have counter-example on paper in my own personal library.

Or, from Spiro Kostof's 'The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession': "Even in the democratic environment of Classical Greece, some houses were larger and more elaborate than others, and thus would plausibly require the special care of an architect - or at least the distinction of having been "architected"." From Wendell Rossman's 1972 'The effective architect' come two examples: "Never is a good model a plan over which a structure is engineered, a facade architected to, or an interior..." and "Looking the situation over, I found the gate alright, built of 1 1/2" square solid bars with alternating architected ladder-type grillwork."

It seems then that actual architects *do* use the term "architected".

The word is also in Mark Twain's 1906 "The Refuge of the Derelicts": 'He had very decided opinions on most matters, and he had architected them himself.' I think it's fair to say that Twain knew the difference between a verb and a noun. A Google Book search easily finds other examples, like a Field&Stream article from 1975 which uses the line "The way, of course, is river floating, a ride back in time to a universe architected by nature."

Language Log also taught me that many people are fierce advocates for whatever grammar rules they were taught in school, even if there's no factual basis. (You need only read their many essays against the grammar "rules" of Strunk and White.) Thus, I'm happy to leave this as a untested hypothesis, and let you or someone else go through the work of trying to come up with evidence for it. Until then, I say only that it doesn't make as much sense as the two other explanations I pointed out earlier.
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I see its origin as simpler than that. People love to use bigger words to aggrandize the perception of their vocabulary and intellect. No easier way to do that than to append (or in this case, "prepend') a word with an extra (unnecessary and wholly incorrect) syllable.

It's the same as people saying "We architected this" rather than "We designed this". Even actual architects say "designed". I never heard it used as a verb in ARCH, only later in the business world. But people think "architected" sounds more refined and erudite. To me it just says that they don't know the difference between a verb and a noun.

And to me, using "irregardless" just says you don't think before you speak (or listen to yourself while doing it). Like ending on a preposition... Correct or not, I try to avoid it. I like that it makes me actually plan the sentence before it spills forth from my face. :)
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