College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MA)


Sarah Rice


descriptive grammar, descriptivism, education, grammar, prescriptive grammar, prescriptivism, writing


English Language and Literature


This thesis describes why the prescriptive grammar model should be implemented in public education rather than the descriptive grammar model. For the purposes of this paper, prescriptive grammar refers to how words ought to be used, while descriptive grammar refers to how words are used by native speakers in natural settings. The central issue I address in this thesis is how prescriptive grammar enables students to read and write properly, heightens their linguistic knowledge, improves their ability to express themselves, and teaches them useful skills for future educational and employment opportunities. Additionally, it outlines the flaws inherent in the descriptive grammar model, namely its lack of pragmatism as well as its impractical and unachievable objectives, e.g. an instructor cannot possibly teach every linguistic variant of English to students. Furthermore, this thesis examines my research on the top-rated public universities in Virginia, specifically which writing features are most commonly listed in their student resources. This research served as the foundation of a grammar manual I compiled for Virginia high school teachers to use in their writing instruction. My hope is that educators will begin to embrace prescriptivism in order to adequately prepare their students for a successful professional future.