atw: Re: Correct usage conundrum: "Match to" vs "Match with"

  • From: "Virtue, Chris" <Chris.Virtue@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Feb 2010 09:00:01 +1100

It’s tricky. There have been recent trends in school to have less emphasis on 
spelling and grammar and more on getting the meaning across. There are problems 
with this. Firstly, where does one draw the line? Secondly, and perhaps more 
importantly, the poor spelling, usage and grammar was so infuriating some 
people, including prospective employers, that it was getting in the way of the 
message. Some school teachers I know are now insisting on at least correct 

I was given a copy of a major bank’s “documentation standards” when I started a 
contract with them. In the usage section, there were a number of things that 
were incorrect, but, they were paying the bills, so I rolled over. If in doubt, 
do what the client wants.

This issue isn’t just confined to English. I was in Singapore a few years ago 
and there were posters all over the place (in English) “Speak Mandarin, not 

Commonwealth Bank
Chris Virtue
Process Documentation
Group Property
Level 3, 120 Pitt St
P: 02 9312 3928
M: 0413 189 976
E: chris.virtue@xxxxxxxxxx
Our vision is to be Australia's finest financial services organisation through 
excelling in customer service.

From: austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
[mailto:austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Geoffrey Marnell
Sent: Saturday, 30 January 2010 18:10
To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: atw: Re: Correct usage conundrum: "Match to" vs "Match with"

Loosen up lads. Next you'll be saying that American spelling and punctuation is 
"incorrect". It's certainly not the same as our usage. Or maybe you'll be game 
and say that Shakespeare's English was "incorrect". Well, no-one writes like 
that these days, do they. So who is correct: Shakespeare or us? Or perhaps you 
think that the grammar of Yorkshire is "incorrect" because it is different from 
the grammar of the Home Counties (and hence Alan Bennett is a poor writer). If 
so, you are forgetting legitimate variety and unstoppable flux. One more 
example of a thousand possible examples: less than a hundred years ago, it was 
considered standard English to place a space between the last word in a 
sentence and the final question mark or exclamation mark. Was that practice 
"incorrect"? Or are we "incorrect" because we don't do that now ? Will you 
still be saying that "disinterested" means objective and impartial when 95% of 
the population understands the word to mean bored or lacking in interest? 
Perhaps a villain really is a serf, not a crook.

 It's really time to stop using words like "incorrect" and "wrong" when it 
comes to what is purely conventional and forever changing. Words like 
"unconventional" or "unusual" are far better. In which case media might well be 
a legitimate source (one of many) of information about conventional usage. And 
in which case descriptivist dictionaries like the Macquarie are better friends 
than old-fashioned prescriptivist dictionaries.

Let's go back to basics. Do you write to communicate? Or write to instantiate a 
set of supposedly immutable laws of grammar? If you want to write according to 
the so-called immutable rules of ninetieth-century grammar books, you risk 
communication breakdown as readers become increasingly distracted by what they 
perceive as quaint, odd or even stuffy. Put another way, if you write to 
communicate, it pays to adopt the language of your intended audience, whether 
you like it or not. Your prejudices shouldn't enter into the equation.

Here's to the Macquarie Dictionary, the only authoritative source for 
information about how Australians use their language. And why shouldn't we use 
our language? I suspect, Brian and Ken, that you would rather us Australians to 
spell "organise" as "organize". (Wasn't that the spelling of so-called standard 
English?) And you are no doubt tut-tutting at the "and" at the start of this 
sentence, even though it is a common practice and has been so for many hundreds 
of years, by writers renown and otherwise. Shakespeare too.

Finally, a pertinent quote from George Orwell, written in 1946:
" The defence of the English language … has nothing to do with setting up a 
‘standard English’ which must never be departed from [nor with] correct grammar 
and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear 
Here, here. A grammatically perfect sentence punctuated majestically can still 
fail to get its message across. I'm with Orwell: it's time we worried more 
about communicating and less about what is supposedly correct and incorrect.

Geoffrey Marnell
Principal Consultant
Abelard Consulting Pty Ltd
T: +61 3 9596 3456
F: +61 3 9596 3625
Skype: geoffrey.marnell

From: austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
[mailto:austechwriter-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ken Randall
Sent: Saturday, January 30, 2010 3:42 PM
To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: atw: Re: Correct usage conundrum: "Match to" vs "Match with"
I was using the media as an example of incorrect usage.

--- On Sat, 30/1/10, Brian Clarke <brianclarke01@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: Brian Clarke <brianclarke01@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: atw: Re: Correct usage conundrum: "Match to" vs "Match with"
To: austechwriter@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Received: Saturday, 30 January, 2010, 2:59 PM

Only the Macq uses the media as an arbiter of correct usage. I use the media as 
Aunt Sallies at which to throw shies.

Matched 'against' is another possibility - as in sports contests.


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