"Neoclassical Assumptions in Contemporary Prescriptive Grammar"

The term 'Prescriptive Grammar' refers to the notion that the rules of grammar should be strictly obeyed. Wallace wrote about the subject for Harper's Magazine in his essay Democracy, English and The Wars Over Usage.

Wallace's mother Sally, a professor of English, would fake coughing fits at the dinner table if her children committed linguistic errors, stopping only when it had been corrected by the perpetrator. Wallace once wrote that he was "slightly chilled by the idea of children being brought up to think that a linguistic error might deprive their mother of oxygen."