Amateur Grammar Authorities

Sometimes you learn from them, correct your long held practice and move on. That’s okay. It’s when they attempt to correct your grammar and you end up wasting time to verify their assertions, that it becomes a pain in the ass.

A case in point.

Now in all my nearly 60 years, addressing the minister or pastor as Reverend So and So is so common that it defies my belief that the practice is incorrect. It has been as common as addressing your family physician as Dr. So and So.

Not as a debating tool, but rather to simply inform myself, I googled both “the reverend billy graham” and “reverend billy graham” to find that the former construction has been used twice as often as the latter.

My sense is that Silver Towers is confused beteen a form of address and a title. You don’t address your pastor as follows,

“The Reverend So and So, how are you this morning?”

Neither do you address a supreme judge as follows,

“The Honourable Scalia, how are you this morning?”

But none of what I’ve said is worthy to present for argument. Just who or what is the ultimate authority on english grammer or proper language usage?

We is!:smiley:

I’m not an amateur grammar authority; given that one of my official job duties is editing and proof-reading, I am literally a professional grammar authority, though I am far from an infallible one.

The fact that “Reverend Jackson” is used more often than “The Reverend Mr. Jackson” or “The Reverend Jesse Jackson” doesn’t make it correct by the rules of English grammar. It may make it an accepted usage, and over time, this may lead to the official rules of grammar being changed. Language is constantly changing.

Wikipedia article on the style “The Reverend”.

And which forum do OP’s seeking opinions goes in?

Pit Moderator

And does this really belong in the Pit? This OP is far, far too tame for the Pit.

ETA - seems someone else already got to it.

Are you American? If so, periods inside the quotation marks, correct?

The Usborne Guide to Better English is. Grammar fascists are, however, utterly tedious.

FWIW, the usage of “Reverend” in his bio on the RainbowPUSH Coalition website varies. The title of the bio is “Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder and President, RainbowPUSH Coalition.” The first sentence of the bio refers to him as “The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.” In subsequent sentences, he is referred to as “Reverend Jackson” and “Reverend Jesse Jackson.” No offense intended to AT; this is just an interesting grammar issue.

I believe that only applies to reported speech.

A.T. is correct: at least as far as saying that the form he prescribes in unexceptionable in formal written English (in it American, British, and sundry Commonwealth varieties) whereas using “Reverend” as a title instead of a style may be marked by more conservative speakers.

The traditional forms are:

The Reverend Billy Graham
The Reverend Mr. Graham (an old Protestant form that is passing out of currency, I suppose–but recall the Kingston Trio’s song “Reverend Mr. Black”)
The Reverend Father Graham (although “Father” is generally only used for Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican/Episcopalian clergy)

Likewise, we refer to judges as

The Honorable Frank Easterbrook
The Honorable Judge Easterbrook

or members of Congress as

The Honorable Richard J. Durbin
The Honorable Senator Durbin

You are right that we don’t go around saying “Hello, the Reverend ______,” but as you point out, neither do we do so with judges (although we might say “Hello, your Honor”) or senators. Judges and senators have titles in addition to styles; some clergy do too (Father being the most common in Christian churches). One of the principles of some variants of Protestantism was to dispense with Roman pageantry, and so it makes sense that “Mr.” is the title they use (or perhaps used, since it is in Low Church Protestantism where you most frequently encounter “Reverend” as a title).

Okay, you’ve got some credentials, and I’m actually learning something. That always interests me.

Whether its useful or not is another matter.

I have an engineering background, but its been years since I stopped correcting people who report pressure and stress in pounds, which are actually units of force, not pressure… To do so would serve no purpose other than to show off my self perceived superiority in the knowledge of simple physics. That’s what I’ve been told, so I’m passing the advice forward.


I hate this stuff about “the rules of English grammar.” The so-called rules were observations made by descriptivists that prescriptivists want to try and make everyone follow. Yet, when the descriptivist notices that the observation is no longer valid, the prescriptivist ignores this, and keeps on preaching the previous observation as a rule that is inherently correct. And they always lose, as language always changes.

I guess I am saying you should say “the proper English grammar style.” But that would make me a hypocrite, right? :smiley:

P.S. There’s also no such thing as the “official rules of grammar”, as English lacks an official body that can make such a pronouncement. But go ahead and use that term anyway, since that’s what everybody seems to use. (There. I can be a descriptivist!)

What is constituting the expression of proper English does well depend upon to whom the bill is going.

I’m just sure you’ve violated a rule in there somewhere, and when I find it, boy oh boy are you going to be in trouble.

The essential problem is not so much correct and incorrect usage. It’s more a matter of educated usage and uneducated usage. Proper usage is not determined by a popular vote. However (unfortunately) in the long run the masses do, in fact, drive change so it’s a losing battle to defend prescriptivism. There is a sense in which the village idiot who was the first to apply a new usage was simply ahead of his time–a leader of the correct-usage pack.

“Proper” usage of grammar and style serves to separate the educated from the uneducated (and sometimes uneducable) and it slows down the rate of change, which is a significant value in maintaining clarity of meaning.

The best everyday rule is that clarity of meaning is most important, followed by educated usage.

Where meaning is clear and at issue is educated usage, there is a fine line between defending educated usage to protect the language, and just being a pedant.

The principle purpose of pedantry is to correct for the sake of correction with a goal no more noble than asserting usage superiority and by inference, superiority of the one doing the correcting. It’s a game.

When there is disagreement among the many lesser pedants who patrol this board, I step in when I can.

I prefer ‘the Reverend Mr. So and So’ or ‘the Reverend Firstname So and So’ when you talk about him and just ‘Reverend So and So’ when you talk to him. But I’m not that picky about those.
The only thing that really gets me is ‘the Reverend’ instead of ‘the minister,’ ‘the pastor,’ ‘the clergy-in-charge,’ or whatever like that there. Reverend is a title, not a noun-type descriptor.


“Did you call your mother on her birthday?” my wife asked yesterday. I shook my head and muttered “Nope.”


More informal versions of the negative answer “no” are “nah”, “nuh uh”, and “nope”.

First sentence: reported speech.
Second sentence: not reported speech. The period clearly belongs outside the quotation marks here.

Do please try to avoid the one-word bon mots in the future, dear chap; they’re best fit for gay cocktail parties on the lawn and convivial evenings at the supper club rather than discussions of grammar and punctuation. And then only if you’re Oscar Wilde.

Do please try to avoid mulit-word bon mots in the future, dear chap; they’re best fit for when you know what you’re talking about.

Friedo: Location = Brooklyn
Olentzero: Location = Sweden

Per the Chicago Manual of Style:

His/Her Honour, Judge “X”, is the form that most Brits and sundry Australians, at least, use.