Dennis Baron

Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
department: 217-333-2390
fax: 217-333-4321



Ph.D., University of Michigan (English Language and Literature), 1971.
M.A., Columbia University (English and Comparative Literature), 1968.
A.B., Brandeis University (English and American Literature), 1965.

Positions Held:

Professor of English and linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1984-present.
Head, Department of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1998-2003.
Acting Head, Department of English, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1997-98.
Director of Rhetoric, University of Illinois, 1985-97.
Director, Writing Outreach Workshop, Univ. of Illinois, 1985-88.
Professor, Campus Honors Faculty, Univ. of Illinois, 1988-present.
Professor, College of Education, UIUC, Summer 1988.
Associate Professor of English and Linguistics, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1981-84.
Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1975-81.
Assistant Professor of English, The City College of CUNY, 1973-74.
Assistant Professor of English, Eastern Illinois University, 1971-73.

Professional societies:

Chair, Committee on Public Language, National Council of Teachers of English, 2005-06; 2009-2011.
Chair, Committee on Public Policy, Conference on College Composition and Communication, 2003-06.
Member, Board of Advisors for the television series “Do You Speak American?” with Robert MacNeil.
Member, PMLA Advisory Committee, 1998-2001.
Member, editorial advisory board, Liverpool Studies in Language and Discourse, 1993-present.
Member, MLA Delegate Assembly, 1998-2003.
Chair, MLA Division on Language and Society, 2001-02
Member, Commission on Language, National Council of Teachers of English, 1984-87; 1999-2002.
Editor, Publication of the American Dialect Society (monograph series) 1984-93.
Member, Committee on Language and the Schools, Linguistic Society of America, 1992-1997.
Associate Editor, Publication of the American Dialect Society, 1982-84.

Fellowships and grants:

Faculty Fellow, Program for the Study of Cultural Values and Ethics, Univ. of Illinois, Spring 1992.
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, calendar year 1989.
Newberry Library National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1988-89 (offered, not held).
IBM Project Excel Grant C-41, 1986-87: “Computer Analysis of Student Writing.”
Associate, Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois 1984-85.
Fulbright Lecturer, University of Poitiers, France, 1978-79.
Fellow, Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois, 1978 (offered, not held).
University of Illinois Research Board grants, multiple years, 1978 - present.

Publications --

Books and Monographs:

    1. A Better Pencil: Readers, writers and the digital revolution. New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009 (puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, describing how the digital revolution influences our reading and writing practices, and how the latest technologies differ from what came before).
    2. Guide to Home Language Repair (questions, answers, and essays on the English language). Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English (1994).
    3. The English-Only Question: An Official Language for Americans? (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990; paper ed., 1992), pp. XXI + 226. Over 25 reviews and notices, including The Washington Post Book World, Education Week, Jerusalem Post, TLS, Modern Language Journal, Language.
    4. Declining Grammar and Other Essays on the English Vocabulary (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989), pp. IX + 240.
    5. Grammar and Gender (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986; paper ed., 1987), pp. IX + 249. Over 25 reviews and notices, including TLS, Psychology Today, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Star, Modern Language Review, Language.
    6. Grammar and Good Taste: Reforming the American Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982; paper ed., 1984), pp. IX + 263. Over 25 reviews and notices, including The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, American Literature, Journal of American Studies, The Times (of London), Studies in the American Renaissance; picked as an Editor’s Choice, New York Times Book Review.
    7. Going Native: The Regeneration of Saxon English. Publication of The American Dialect Society, No. 69 (University: University of Alabama Press, 1982), pp. IX + 63.
    8. Case Grammar and Diachronic English Syntax (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), pp. 132.

Supreme Court amicus brief:


Book Chapters:

    1. "Language and education: The more things change." In Contours of English, ed. Anne Curzan and Michael Adams. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, forthcoming.
    2. “The New Technologies of the Word.” In Keith Walters and Michal Brody, eds., What’s Language Got to Do with It?” New York: W. W. Norton, 2005, pp. 136-51.
    3. “Don’t Make English Official—Ban It Instead.” [rpt. of 1996 essay]. In Keith Walters and Michal Brody, eds., What’s Language Got to Do with It?” New York: W. W. Norton, 2005, pp. 477-79.
    4. “Forget Everything You Learned About Writing.” In Chris Anson, ed., The WAC Casebook: Scenes for Faculty Reflection and Program Development. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003, pp. 261-65.
    5. “Language Legislation and Language Abuse: American Language Policy through the 1990s.” In Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives on the Official English Movement, vol. 2: History, Theory and Policy, ed. Roseann D. Gonzalez with Ildiko Melis (Urbana: NCTE, and Lawrence Earlbaum Assoc., 2001), pp. 5-29.
    6. “From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technologies.” In Passions, Pedagogies and 21st-Century Technologies, ed. Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe (Logan: Utah State Univ. Press and the National Council of Teachers of English, 1999), pp. 15-33. [This is the lead essay in the book.] Rpt. in Ellen Cushman, Eugene R. Kintgen, Barry M. Kroll, and Mike Rose, eds., Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2001. Pp. 70-84.
    7. “An Official Language.” Rpt. (from The English Only Question) in Writing About Diversity: An Argument Reader and Guide, ed. Irene L. Clark (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1994), pp. 284-302.
    8. “Language Is the Enemy.” Rpt. (from Declining Grammar) in Dimensions of Language, ed. Boyd Davis. (New York: Macmillan, 1993), pp. 427-31.
    9. “Language, Culture, and Society,” in Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, ed. Joseph Gibaldi. 2nd ed. (New York: Modern Language Association, 1992), pp. 28-52.
    10. “Federal English and the Constitution,” rpt. in Language Loyalties, ed. James Crawford. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press (1992), pp. 36-40.
    11. “The Legal Status of English in Illinois: Case Study of a Multilingual State,” in Not Only English: Affirming America’s Multilingual Heritage, ed. Harvey A. Daniels (Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 1990), pp. 13-26.
    12. “Watching Our Grammar: The English Language for English Teachers,” in On Literacy and Its Teaching: Issues in English Education, ed. Gail Hawisher and Anna Soter (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1990), pp. 208-23. [Review: Sharon J. Hamilton, College English 55 (1993): 794-800.
    13. “Watching Our Grammar” (rpt. from Grammar and Good Taste), in The Story of English: Study Guide and Reader (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1986).
    14. “Nonstandard English, Composition, and the Academic Establishment,” 1975; rpt. in Readings in Applied English Linguistics, ed. Harold B. Allen and Michael Linn, 3rd. ed. (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1982), pp. 436-43.

Recent articles and essays:

    1. "It's all your fault: Who's to blame for the literacy crisis?" College Composition and Communication. Sept. 2009.
    2. “I’m not really a professor, I just play one on TV.” Inside Higher Education, Oct. 14, 2005.
    3. “The College Board’s New Essay Reverses Decades of Progress Toward Literacy.” Chronicle of Higher Education. May 6, 2005. Pp. B14-15; rpt. in Newsletter of the Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors, Fall 2005.
    4. “The New Nativism: Language Policy and Linguistic Ideology in the United States.” Ryukyus Journal of American Studies (April, 2005): 1-12.
    5. “Not Searching for Skeletons.” Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 14, 2005, C1;4.
    6. “The Tongue Who Would Be King.” Science and Spirit, November/December 2004, pp. 28-33.
    7. “The President’s Reading Lesson.” Education Week, Sept. 8, 2004, p. 43.
    8. 11 essays on departmental administration, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2003-04.
    9. “It’s Just Grammar. Whom Really Cares?” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2004, B17; rpt., Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, Adrian (Michigan) Daily Telegram, May 12, 2004.
    10. “No Translation Needed: ‘Door Is Closed.’” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2004, M5 [rpt. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kansas City Star; Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Sun-News; Bryan-College Station (TX) Eagle; translated into Finnish for Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki, Finland), March 28, 2004].
    11. 7 Essays on promotion and tenure, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2002-03.
    12. “Teaching Grammar Doesn’t Lead to Better Writing.” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 16, 2003, B20.
    13. “I Teach English—and I Hate Reader’s Guides.” Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 4, 2002, p. B5.
    14. “Good Grammar and the Career Network.” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 31, 2002.
    15. “Language Use and Grammar.” The September, 2002, module for “Teaching Composition,” a listserv for the composition teaching community, published by McGraw-Hill.
    16.             5 essays on the academic job search, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2001-02.
    17.              “America Doesn’t Know What the World Is Saying.” Op-Ed essay, The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2001, A21. Rpt. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 30, 2001, B11.
    18.              “The End of Linguistics: a response” letter to the editor, The American Scholar (Spring, 2001): 155-56.
    19.              “The Official Secrets Act in Academic Publishing.” Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 16, 2001, B5.
    20.              “Literacy and technology.” In Linda K. Shamoon, R. M. Howard, S. Jamieson, and R. A. Schwegler, eds., Coming of Age: The Advanced Writing Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, Boynton/Cook, 2000 and on CD-rom. Approx. 8 pp.
    21.              “Ebonics and the Politics of English.” World Englishes 19 (March, 2000): 5-19.
    22.              “Technology’s Impact on Writing.” Letter. Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 21, 2000, B11.
    23.              “To Sir, or Ma’am, with Love.” Education Week. Sept. 8, 1999, 45.
    24.              “How to Be a Person, Not a Number, on the U.S. Census.” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 3, 1998, B8.             “Ebonics Is Not a Panacea for Students at Risk.” Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 24, 1997, B4-5. Rpt. in Second-Language Learner, Chicago Public Schools, 1997.

Work in progress:

What Writers Do (a rhetoric for first-year writers).

Recent invited lectures and conference presentations:

    1. “No University Student Left Behind: Writing and the Secretary of Education’s Commission on Higher Education.” Featured session. Conference on College Composition and Communication. Chicago, March 2006. Podcast at
    2. “The Perils of the new SAT Writing Test.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. San Francisco. March 17, 2005.
    3. “Spanish, English and the New Nativism.” Modern Language Association. Philadelphia. Dec. 30, 2004.
    4. “Reading and Writing in the Digital Age.” Invited presentation. Illinois Library Association, Chicago, September 30, 2004.
    5. “Language Policies and Language Politics in the United States.” “English and Minority Languages in the 2000 Census.” Invited lectures, Univ. of Ryukyu, Okinawa, Japan, June, 2004.
    6. “TeknoFear.” Invited lecture, Northeastern Illinois University, April 15, 2004.
    7. “Standards: They’re Not for Everybody.” Conference on College Composition and Communication. San Antonio, TX, March 25, 2004.
    8. “The New Technologies of the Word.” Plenary lecture. International Association of World Englishes Conference, Univ. of Illinois, October 17, 2002.
    9. “Writing Effective Promotion Dossiers,” Provost’s Seminar, Univ. of Illinois, Sept. 7, 2001.
    10. “Promotion and Tenure,” a workshop for new executive officers, Association of Departments of English seminar, Monterey, California, June 29, 2001.
    11. “From Pencils to Pixels: The New Technologies of Literacy.” Invited lecture, UC Davis, March 2, 2001.
    12. “Writing Effective Third-Year Faculty Reviews,” Provost’s Seminar, Univ. of Illinois, Feb. 26, 2001.
    13. “Other Teachers’ Students.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, Minneapolis, MN, April 15, 2000.
    14. “The Best Words of the Millennium.” Modern Language Association, Chicago Il, Dec. 27, 1999.
    15. “Ebonics and the Politics of Language.” Conference on Language Policy at the Millennium. Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel; Nov. 23-25, 1999.
    16. “From Pencils to Pixels: The New Technologies of Literacy.” Keynote address, Verbal Arts Conference, University of Illinois at Springfield, April 23, 1999. Versions given at Pennsylvania State University; Center for Advanced Study Symposium on Literacy and Writing Systems in Asia.
    17.              “Ebonics in the National Media and the National Consciousness,” Modern Language Association, San Francisco, Dec. 1998.
    18.              “Talking the Talk: Language Politics Coast to Coast, from Prop 227 to the Puerto Rico Statehood Referendum,” Modern Language Association, San Francisco, Dec. 1998.
    19.              “An Invitation to ‘Forget Everything You Learned about Writing in High School’ or Not.” Practice, Theory, Reflection, and Action: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and English Studies [NCTE], Seattle WA, June 19, 1998.

Media appearances: frequently quoted in newspapers, along with multiple appearances on radio and television each year, including CNN, NPR, CBC, BBC, Voice of America, and local statios such as . . .

    1. “The English Language.” Focus 580, WILL-AM, multiple appearances each year from 1982-present.
    2. “Good English.” The Robin and Maynard Show. KQBZ-FM (Seattle), May 3, 2005.
    3. “Pronunciation in American English.” Interview by Avi Arditti and Roseann Skirble broadcast on “Coast to Coast” by Voice of America (4/24/03); posted on
    4. “The English Language,” The Joan Rivers Show, WOR-AM, New York, June 25, 2001.
    5. “The New Oxford Dictionary of English,” “Sandy Rios Live,” WYLL-FM, Chicago, Aug. 14, 1998.
    6. “The Merriam-Webster/NAACP Controversy.” WCIA TV, Champaign, Oct. 20, 1997.
    7. “American English Usage,” broadcast in the series “Under Construction,” by Merriam-Webster and Northeast Public Radio.
    8. “The French Language Police,” The Howard Galganof Show, CJIT, Montreal, Sept. 22, 1997.
    9. “Language Legislation,” Daybreak, CBC, Montreal, Sept. 8, 1997
    10. “Law 101 and Language Legislation,” The Tommy Schnumacher Show, CJAD-AM, Montreal, Sept. 8, 1997.
    11. “Literacy,” Newswatch, CBC-TV, Sept. 8, 1997.
    12. “The Ebonics Debate,” “Penny for Your Thoughts,” WDWS-AM, Champaign, Jan. 28, 1997.
    13. “Ebonics,” WTOP News Radio AM 1500 (Washington, DC), Dec. 28, 1996.
    14. “Ebonics,” ABC Radio News, Dec. 28, 1996.
    15. “Ebonics,” WNBC-TV (Washington, DC), Dec. 27, 1996.
    16. “Ebonics,” NewsChannel 8 (Washington, DC), Dec. 27, 1996.
    17. “Banning English,” Jack Cole, WJNO, ABC radio affiliate, Palm Beach, FL, Sept. 12, 1996.

Refereeing and reviewing:

Memberships in professional organizations:

Administrative initiatives:

Biographical notices:

Who’s Who in America
Directory of American Scholars
Contemporary Authors
Who’s Where Among Writers
International Authors and Writers Who’s Who
International Linguistic Directory
Who’s Who in American Education
Who’s Who in the World
Who’s Who in the Humanities


Courses taught:

Proseminar on the Teaching of College Writing; Descriptive English Grammar; Technologies of the Word; Writing Technologies; Technology and Literacy; New Genres of the Internet; History of the English Language; The Nature of Standard English; Poetics of Oral Literature; Chaucer; English linguistics; Stylistics and literary criticism; Introduction to film; Old English; Beowulf.

Committee service, Univ. of Illinois:

University level—

College level--

Department level--