Siepert SD, Lothman KD, Martin A. Zombie rules and shibboleths: exploring a few contested rules of English grammar. Poster presented at the 75th Annual Conference of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA); September 15, 2015. San Antonio, TX.

INTRODUCTION: Is the prohibition against preposition stranding a rule up with which we do not put? It is one of a few contested rules of good writing, along with never splitting infinitives and never using which in restrictive clauses. Some style guides are relaxing their views on these rules, noting that they don’t always serve good writing. Indeed, many scholars suggest that these rules are pedantic inventions rather than accurate reflections of how English works. But what is the view among editors, tasked with enforcing proper language? Are we also relaxing these rules or perpetuating them? Do novice and experienced writers view them differently?

METHODS: We propose to conduct a survey of AMWA members to help answer these questions. The survey will present sample sentences, most violating one of the contested rules. Participants will rate their level of acceptance of each sentence on a numeric scale. The survey may also include direct statements of contested rules and ask participants to rate their level of agreement with the rule.

RESULTS: Results will be stratified by editors versus writers and by years of experience.

CONCLUSION: We hope this survey will reveal attitudes regarding these contested rules among editors and writers.   

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