ACES Evolve 2023

Sounding Like the “Right Sort” | James Harbeck

Status sensitivity has always been a major factor in language usage. Newspapers and politicians have gone from trying to sound like a literary “elite” two centuries ago to trying to sound like “common people” today, while academic writing increasingly chooses words and grammar to try to sound like “objective” scientists. Grammar guides tell people not to sound like “illiterate barbarians,” while much popular culture aims directly against those norms to sound “real” and “authentic.” This session uses a wide variety of examples to show editors how to recognize these status ideas in language and work with them – and against them.

Introductory/Intermediate Level, All editors, Words and Language


James Harbeck has an MA in linguistics, a PhD in drama, and 25 years of experience as an editor. He is well known for his blog, his articles on language for publications such as The Week, Slate, and the BBC, and his presentations on language and editing.

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