In the prescriptivist camp falls Lynne Truss, The “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks, and your high school English teacher. Prescriptivists aim to help us use the English language properly. The intention is noble: if we all speak the same language, we can communicate much more effectively. But it’s a bit Quixotic: if language was static, we’d all still write like Chaucer.
The descriptivist camp, on the other hand, simply aims describe how the language is used today. This camp is perhaps best embodied by the Urban Dictionary, a lexicon open to input from anyone. Unfortunately, this purely descriptive approach to language implies that language doesn’t matter as long as intent can be communicated; generations of poets would beg to differ.
Neither camp is “right” — both parties are needed to keep language moving forward at the right speed. Think of it as like a nuclear reactor: too much descriptivism and the language will melt down into a radioactive mess; too much prescriptivism and the lights go out."
I think it will come as a surprise to no one that I’m deeply sympathetic to the descriptivist position. Much to the chagrin of my managing editor.
Descriptivists and Prescriptivists