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An Interview With Steven Pinker

Simon Fraser University
Steven Pinker researches language and cognition as a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He writes for several publications.

Why should we care about writing when texting is quicker and easier to bypass inflexible grammar rules that perplex even the most seasoned writers? Mixed metaphors, split infinitives, passive sentences, ugh!!

Cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker says to relax. Good writing has never been easy, but it doesn’t have to be drudgery. While rules of good grammar will always be important, let's play with the old rules to craft coherent and stylish prose that gets to the point.

"There are clearly some forms that are wrong by the expectations of a literate readership," Pinker said. "On the other hand, a lot of things that people say are wrong; there's just no basis for saying that they're wrong. There are a lot of bogus rules that are out there and indeed the final arbiter has to be the people who use the language."

Instead of lamenting the decline of culture, let's teach kids how to write with imagination, coherence and enjoyment. He says, "You want to be understood and if 99% of people interpret a word one way, it's kind of futile to say sorry, you guys are wrong but we 1% get to use the word the way we want."

He joins us to talk about his new book, “The Sense of Style.” You can hear Colin's full interview below. 

Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer. Colin can be reached at colin@ctpublic.org.
Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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