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Open Access Editorial

Standards of English in a democratic, mass publication journal

Richard Smith

Author Affiliations

Editor-in-Chief, Cases Journal, BioMed Central, Middlesex House, 34-42 Cleveland Street, London, W1T 4LB, UK

Cases Journal 2008, 1:40  doi:10.1186/1757-1626-1-40

Published: 16 July 2008

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

Few things give me greater pleasure than reading good prose. I've been reading an unbroken series of what I snobbishly call "good books" – Dickens, Trollope, Hemingway, Powell, Austen, Eliot, Conrad, James, Proust, Balzac, Roth, Updike, McEwan, and the like – since I was a teenager. Beside my bed I have a copy of Harold Bloom's The best poems of the English language: from Chaucer to Frost. Bloom, for those who don't know, is the creator of the "canon," the collection of good books by mostly dead, white writers that he thinks everybody should read. He's been roundly abused for being elitist and out of touch with the modern world. I've also read the two Bibles of style: The complete plain words by Sir Ernest Gowers and The elements of style by William Strunk Junior and E B White. And I regularly reread Orwell's essay Politics and the English language, the greatest piece of writing on writing in English. So I have my pretensions when it comes to language, but I'm willing to publish in this journal prose that can be described only as execrable. Why?