Usage is the manner in which written and spoken language is used, the "points of grammar, syntax, style, and the choice of words",[1] and "the way in which a word or phrase is normally and correctly used". Usage can mean the way people actually use language or prescriptively the way one group feels that people ought to use it.[2]

The Chicago Manual of Style says "the great mass of linguistic issues that writers and editors wrestle with don't really concern grammar at all—they concern usage: the collective habits of a language's native speakers",[3] and "the standards of good usage change, however slowly."[3]

Dictionaries are not always accurate guides to "good usage". "Despite occasional usage notes, lexicographers generally disclaim any intent to guide writers and editors on the thorny points of English usage."[3]


According to Jeremy Butterfield, "The first person we know of who made usage refer to language was Daniel Defoe, at the end of the seventeenth century". Defoe proposed the creation of a language society of 36 individuals who would set prescriptive language rules for the approximately six million English speakers.[2]

See also


  1. ^ H. W. Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage
  2. ^ a b Butterfield, Jeremy (2008). Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 137–138. ISBN 9780199574094. 
  3. ^ a b c University of Chicago (2010). The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 261–262. ISBN 9780199574094.