Frequently asked questions
Our answers indicate where we stand on certain issues
Q What does the QES actually do?
A The Society campaigns to encourage high standards of written and spoken English, with the aim that school-leavers and university graduates be equipped with the ability to communicate their ideas and advance their careers in the most effective way.
Q Does the QES want to police or govern the language?
A No. That is not seen as our role, as our language will always continue to evolve just as it has done through the ages. We would, however, comment on any alterations to the language that are felt to be not in keeping with clarity and elegance in written or spoken English. We aim to help people avoid the confusion which arises when language is used imprecisely.
Q If the QES does not want to police or govern the language, why does it claim to be 'prescriptive'?
A The Society prefers the prescriptive approach to the descriptive approach, as we do not want the language to lose its fine or major distinctions. We believe that descriptive linguistics, which implies that anything anybody says or writes is 'correct', caters to rather than remedies the inability to communicate clearly. Indeed, some changes would be wholly unacceptable as they could cause confusion and run the risk of the language losing valuable shades of meaning.
Q Does the QES set rules of good English?
A No. While the Society does not set out the rules of good English, which already exist and indeed change over time, it has established a collection of reference books which readers might find useful. The Queen's English and How to Use It, published in September 2010, is available for sale at good bookshops around the country.
Q Does the QES tolerate deviations from the rules that exist?
A The Society believes that the rules of Standard English should be adhered to in formal written communication as far as possible and where the context demands it. We do not believe, however, that the rules should be adhered to blindly at the expense of literary impact. Indeed, the Society encourages rich and imaginative English where appropriate, as in poetry, drama, fiction, oratory and some other non-fiction. Schools should teach pupils to suit their style of writing to the context.
Q Is the QES a self-appointed group of authoritarians?
A No. The Society is open to everyone to join and we believe that by attracting people who believe in the power of clarity in use of language, we can offer much to the needs of the world at large. Our wish is to encourage people to enjoy using the tongue properly and elegantly.
Q Does the QES favour a certain accent in spoken English?
A No. We all have different accents but communication between people needs to be clear for both parties. Indeed, the manner of our speech may differ between conversations within a community sharing a single accent and discussions between people with different ways of giving voice to their English. In situations where an accent may hinder understanding, we would encourage people to recognise that clarity of diction may improve their connection. One may need to adjust some aspects of a local accent to suit the circumstances.
Q Does the QES oppose the assimilation of foreign words?
A We appreciate that the English language has gained enormously from such 'loan' or 'portmanteau' words, as a result of invasions of England by the Vikings and the Normans, borrowings and new coinages from Latin and Greek, our cultural openness to borrowing and its modern global importance. However, we discourage any unclear usage or word that threatens understanding. In many cases, it is necessary for us to understand different uses of the same word. For example, an American would use ‘pavement’ for the main road surface and describe the place for pedestrians as a ‘sidewalk’ where a British speaker would use ‘pavement’. In telling someone to keep on the ‘pavement’, speakers need to appreciate that their meaning may not be clear, depending on the people to whom they are talking.
Q Does the QES take a stand on simplified spelling?
A Yes. We are against simplified spelling because no one can agree on an acceptable system and there are no authorities who can mandate how we speak and use the language. Having old and new systems running together would be very confusing. Such a change could cut people off from older literature, causing us to lose familiarity with its mode of expression, and would be very costly.
Q Does the QES accept anyone as a member or does one have to be a specialist?
A Anyone who generally supports our objectives is welcome to join, and we encourage members of all ages and backgrounds to join our campaign, from teachers of English or other subjects, to school-leavers, parents and employers, or anyone else interested in using the English language as clearly and beautifully as possible. We have members from many countries whether or not English is one of their national languages. We all may have lessons for one another in ways in which the language has evolved and will continue to evolve.