Dennis Baron

Professor of English and linguistics

Dennis BaronDepartment of English
University of Illinois
608 South Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

email Dennis Baron

office: 251 English
phone: 217-305-0067
English department: 217-333-2390
fax: 217-333-4321




Research interests:

  • I'm currently writing a book titled Guns and Grammar: Understanding Language Law

My research interests include:

  • Language legislation, policy and reform; minority languages and dialects; linguistic rights
  • Reading, writing, and other aspects of literacy
  • Technologies of communication
  • The present state of the English language, its history and future
  • Global English
  • Language in the USA
  • Language and gender
  • Writing studies
  • Issues in higher education and teaching



My latest book:

A Better Pencil: Reading, writing, and the digital revolution. Oxford Univ. Press, 2009.

available in hardback, paperback, various e-text editions, and a Chinese translation.

Tracing the impact of communication technologies on our reading and writing practices, and how the needs of readers and writers shape technological development, from the invention of writing to the digital age.


Read the Web of Language:

it's the go-to site for language in the news -- whether it's official English, Spanish in the US, grammar and usage, language politics, or the linguistic twisting of politicians, you can read all about it on the Web of Language. Don't miss updates: bookmark the Web of Language in your browser or newsfeed, or subscribe and get email links to the latest posts.

Follow me on Twitter @DrGrammar

More good reads:

Guns and Grammar: Linguistic authority and legal interpretation in Washington, D.C., v. Heller

Read my amicus brief in Washington, D.C., v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008), on the linguistics of the Second Amendment (the one about the right to bear arms).

Official English from the school house to the White House 

English spoken here: What the Census tells us about language in the USA

The Writer's Meme

click here for a vita



Teaching: Fall 2015

English 402: Descriptive English Grammar

English 482: Communicating in the Digital Age


Experienced academic program reviewer -- click to read my essay on program reviews in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Peer Review

Consultant on the state of the English language for radio, television, and the press.

Expert reports and testimony on --

  • readability and legibility
  • literacy
  • plagiarism
  • language rights and linguistic discrimination
  • interpretation of words and documents
  • meanings and trademarks


A better pencil: Readers, writers, and the digital revolution -- Oxford Univ. Press, 2009

Tracing the impact of technologies of communication on our reading and writing practices, and how the needs of readers and writers shape technological development, from the invention of writing to the digital age.

The English-Only Question: An Official Language for Americans?
(Yale Univ. Press, 1990)

Grammar and Gender (Yale Univ. Press, 1986)

Grammar and Good Taste: Reforming the American Language
(Yale Univ. Press, 1982)

Guide to Home Language Repair 
(Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1994)

Declining Grammar and Other Essays on the English Vocabulary
(Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1988)


When People Roamed the Earth --
a book for children

find out what would happen if dinosaurs were alive today and people lived long ago.





Cartoons --

click for a portfolio of the artist


Interested in nonbinary pronouns and singular they? For an extensive list of proposals and comments on what to say when gender is unknown or irrelevant, from the 1790s to the present, click here.

Read these and other essays on language and education:

Who defines marriage? 

English, the official national language
José Can You See?: The controversy over translating the Star-Spangled Banner into English
No Students Left Behind: Literacy measures and the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education
The president's reading lesson: George Bush and "The Pet Goat" on 9/11
English Spoken Here: What the 2000 Census tells us about language
A modest proposal: Don't make English official, ban it instead
Doublespeak is alive!: Latest winners of the annual awards
Spanish abuse: judge censures mother for speaking Spanish to her child
Words and war: our increasingly lethal vocabulary
Computers grade essays: write for your audience, but what if your audience is a machine?
Words that failed: 150 years of gender-neutral English pronouns
From pencils to pixels: the earliest and latest in writing technology
Technologies of the word: the newest genres of communication
The legendary English-only vote of 1795 (or was it 1776?): it never happend, folks
The young professors: how television views the academy
The SAT writing test: why it's won't tell us what we need to know
. . . . and many more