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  • The American LanguageVol. 2, No. 3, March 1940
  • H. L. Mencken

My belief is that teachers of English should try to teach their students to write simple, orthodox English, but that when once so much progress has been made, every student should be encouraged to show as much individuality as he may have. If he inclines toward the pungencies of current speech, I see so reason why he should be discouraged. It is all a question of taste. Shakespeare used the slang of his time very freely, and with great skill. It takes good judgment to employ it without descending to the commonplace of everyday speech, but it certainly can be done. In brief, I believe that in writing English, as in writing music, the orthodox rules should be learnt first, and that after that the pupil should be encouraged to experiment on his own. Now and then, to be sure, his experiments may be failures, but nevertheless it is worthwhile to make them. I never hesitate myself to use current slang, but I try, naturally enough, to keep it for appropriate occasions. There are times when it is immensely effective—indeed, there are times when the effect it produces cannot be produced by any other means. [End Page 133]



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