Why this website and blog? And why titled The Dean’s English?
My best short answer for those questions is that I believe one of the most important keys to effective living is effective communication. For Americans at least, a key to effective communication is developing a strong command of the English language, both spoken and written. I’ll refer to those as Standard English (SE) and Standard Written English (SWE).
Growing up, I had a mother who cared deeply about writing and speaking English “correctly,” even though she was a farmer’s daughter with only a high school education. Her passion rubbed off on me. I am well familiar with the decades-long debate in academia about what constitutes “correct English,” or whether there even is such a thing. But ask any writer who hopes people will actually read his or her stuff if clear, concise, coherent, and, yes, correct writing is important. Go ahead, ask one . . . I’ll wait.
Because I was tall, gangly, unathletic, and geeky as a kid, in eighth grade I resolved to compensate for perceived inadequacies by building my vocabulary. It was something I could do. I was always a pretty good speller, so focusing on vocabulary-building was a natural next step. My parents didn’t own a large library of books, but they did possess a small handful of volumes with titles like 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and Word Power Made Easy, which I devoured. Thus were the seeds planted for what I would eventually become: a logophile, usage snoot, grammarian, and “language maven” (a term intended by linguists like popular author Stephen Pinker to be a good cut, damning with faint praise, but which I claim and wear proudly).
Many professional linguists and lexicographers, champions of descriptivism, scoff at usage snoots like me, interlopers in their regal realm who allegedly major in grammatical minors and nitpick endlessly at others’ misuse of language. In their view, language mavens cling tenaciously to an outdated notion that English has a “correct” form that must remain unchanged forever. They are certain that grammarians insist on silly and long ago debunked rules such as “never end a sentence with a preposition” and “never split an infinitive”—neither of which has been an issue in grammar manuals for over a hundred years. Rest assured, that straw-man argument does not apply to me and is not what I’m about. (See my blog article “Zapping Three Grammar Myths.”)
My purpose isn’t to wag a long, bony finger in anyone’s face to make them feel bad about their use of language and grammar. Further, I fully realize that English is an ever-evolving language; I have no intention of preserving the current version in stone tablets. I do, however, firmly believe that some versions of spoken and written English are to be preferred over others. Thus my purpose here—in some ways my life’s purpose—is twofold: (1) to promote SE and SWE so that speakers and writers of English can communicate more effectively, and (2) to resist today’s cultural slide toward illiteracy and the extreme dumbing-down of language arts. Along the way, I’d like to help by copyediting a few things here and there (see my Copyediting Services page).
So why the title The Dean’s English? I’m glad you asked! It’s my tongue-in-cheek twist on The King’s (or Queen’s) English and a classic one hundred ten-year-old H. W. and F. G. Fowler book by that title. Further, a dean is an academic official—which I am not. But, at the same time I am. . . . um, Dean, that is. Putting it all together, in my slightly warped mind, it just made sense to call this blog The Dean’s English.
I hope you enjoy my website and blog. I welcome your questions and comments.
My copyediting credentials
By profession, temperament, and long experience, I am an educator (college counselor, instructor, and administrator), with master’s degrees in education and ministry leadership. In addition, I earned a Specialized Certificate in Copyediting from UC San Diego Extension a decade ago. Since then I’ve copyedited dozens of projects for multiple clients, including book manuscripts, journal articles, cover letters, master’s theses, and website content (see a sampling of Testimonials).
Personal stuff (if you’re still awake)
I am a bibliophile and a collector of books—not rare ones, mind you, although I wouldn’t mind owning a few if I could afford them. I have more books in my home library than I could read in two lifetimes, but that is what it is. For fun and relaxation—and to stay sharp professionally—I am constantly reading books and journal articles on language, grammar, usage, and writing (and a few other genres). See My Bookshelf for more on that. I also enjoy Stephen King’s books, baseball-themed books, and historical works, such as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. Let’s just say I’m a reader.
For mindless relaxation I have been known to strum an acoustic guitar, play the addicting board game Sequence and watch movies with my wife (especially during the year of COVID, when we couldn’t go anywhere), laugh with my grandkids, cheer for the Dodgers (the 2020 World Series champs), and eat cinnamon rolls and clam chowder at California’s Central Coast. I’ve also been known to play a stats-based baseball board game or two (which I discuss in my book).
Speaking of which, for 2021 I’m projecting I’ll have a revised, updated, second edition of Nothing About Baseball is Trivial available in the spring, and my first The Dean’s English book on language, grammar, and usage available by the end of summer or early in the fall (title yet to be decided). I hope you’ll want to read one or both of them.