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John Cowan

I simply cannot afford to have a student come back to me with a complaint that something that I have taught or tolerated has been criticised in no uncertain manner as a grammatical solecism by a native speaker.

Then you are lost. In the age of the Internet, where the English that people read can come from anywhere in the world, there will always be people who will land on either a Briticism or an Americanism (or an Australianism or an Indianism) with all ten toes. Nor is it possible to always and everywhere avoid usages that are unacceptable to a large fraction of the anglophone population.

Indeed, since there are only tens of millions of Britons to complain and hundreds of millions of Americans, the safest thing to do would be to teach all your students American spellings, American grammar, and American idiom exclusively, as by learning to write "criticized" instead of "criticised". :-) At least their work would present a smaller attack surface.

Peter Harvey

In Europe British English is the standard, as used by the EU, the Council of Europe and European multinational companies. Of course, there are people here who use American spelling and pronunciation; provided this is done consistently there is usually no problem for people who are not constrained by a predetermined style and in such cases I make no attempt to impose a British standard. The same goes for the Cambridge EFL exams; consistent use of American or other forms of English is not penalised. One of the Cambridge oral examiners here is American.

The -ise/-ize difference is not a simple GB/US division. While -ize is standard in American English both forms are used in Britain. In fact -ize is the preferred form of Oxford University press and thus of the OED. I have chosen -ise as my personal style but accept -ize without comment.

Richard Hershberger

The problem is much greater than conflicting regional standards. There is an endless bounty of damn fool superstitions about grammar. The split infinitive is merely one of the best known. Add to it the damn fool superstition about ending a sentence with a preposition. Then begin working your way down the list of other damn fool superstitions. Where to stop? At what point do you decide that this damn fool superstition is widespread enough to require close attention, while that damn fool superstition is obscure enough to safely ignore? (Oops!: Make that "to ignore safely".)

My personal rule of thumb is that if I am writing for a person in authority with known adherence to some damn fool superstition or another, then I will worry about it for the sake of avoiding notice. Persons in authority, after all, need to be handled carefully, like venomous snakes. Otherwise, I don't worry about the damn fool superstitions. If I am writing for publication this has the added benefit of giving the copy editor something to do.

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