8 Right and Wrong Language
Our problem now is, to look at some of the ways in which we are supposed to be speaking wrongly, and to see whether there really exists a choice between “right” and “wrong”, and, if so, what “right” and “wrong” consist of. Our first approach may be made through very ordinary, everyday instances of “mistakes” like I ain’t, he don’t, we seen him, you done it or hisn. Most of us know that these are condemned as "errors", when used instead of the corresponding I am not or I’m not, he doesn’t, we saw him, you did it, his. But what is it that makes them “mistakes” or “errors”? If we drive through a traffic light, steal somebody’s property, or kill someone, we know exactly what provides sanctions against these actions: the law of the land; and we know what will punish us if we disobey the law: the government. Is there any law of the land to set up rules about our speech, or any branch of the government that will enforce them? Obviously not....

  1. The writer puts inverted commas round “mistakes” and “errors” because:
    (a) he doesn’t think they really are mistakes and errors
    (b) they are used in an unusual way
    (c) they are quotations
    (d) he wants to draw attention to them
    (e) he is emphasising them

Abridged given explanation: ...To suggest emphasis (e) is a loose kind of response, taken out of the context of the passage. You can see from the structure of the passage that the brief opening paragraph is establishing the writer’s subject and his approach to it; you should, therefore, read the whole of the passage to see what significance these particular words have...You are now left with a choice between (a) and (d). You can see that (d) is very similar to the already eliminated (e) and does not stand up to a closer scrutiny of the significance of these words in the passage as a whole. Therefore (a) is the correct answer.

  1. I can eliminate (b) and (c), but would someone please enlarge on why (e) is wrong? What does a loose kind of response mean?

  2. Why is (d) wrong? The explanation doesn't explain why it does not ... scrutiny.

Source: LNAT Practice Test 1, Passage 8, Q1

  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the right and wrong as it is defined within a language, not about ethics.
    – iphigenie
    Sep 4 '14 at 21:04

(e) is "wrong" because it isn't "right" more than anything else. By a loose kind of response, I believe what is being suggested is that it is sufficiently non-specific that the response is meaningless, as all other possible responses may reasonably be subsumed into (e).

(d) is "wrong" because it would serve no legitimate rhetorical purpose if the passage were examined more closely as the intricacies of the quotes seem to suggest. So, under closer scrutiny, it is pointless.

Honestly, I would only say (c) is wrong. The rest are just not completely right. And I'm certainly not that impressed with the reasoning behind (a) as being the sole right answer here. But that's just social commentary at this point.


To me, this question is obviously attempting to measure adherence to a particular brand of thinking, however, I don't that any reasonable argument could be constructed that the brand of thinking espoused here is necessarily correct or even optimal in the settings which this test serves as entry requirement into. All offer different and diverse backgrounds as well as different bias/decisiveness trade-offs. It is not my personal understanding from the question that any indication has been given that values decisiveness over being unbiased, and for the reason I believe (e) is actually the most correct answer, as it involves the usage of bias and is most clearly supported by the evidence.

I would actually say (c) is the weakest as there is little support for quotations, but there is not actual evidence to the contrary. For example, the author could be quoting someone else saying them and using these quotations as a change of voice. I believe this is the original reason quotes began being used for emphasis.

After that, I would believe that (a) is least correct as, while it has some manner of support, imposes a specific viewpoint on the author's perspective that necessarily lacks certainty. While informative, it has some chance of being a misinterpretation and, if a misinterpretation, would be vastly more harmful to understanding than any other.

Next we have (b), which is similar to (a) but doesn't claim the false authority of understanding the author. Otherwise, it is wrong for the same reason.

I view (d) and (e) as equivalent but prefer (d) because of it's active voice. To me, while still imperfect, these are both the most correct answers.

  • Thanks. Would you please enlarge on your last two sentences? Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment?
    – NNOX Apps
    Sep 4 '14 at 16:47
  • @LePressentiment ping me again if you'd like more explanation.
    – Calvin
    Sep 4 '14 at 17:02
  • +1. Thanks. Would you mind explaining why (d) is wrong 'if the passage were examined more closely as the intricacies of the quotes seem to suggest'? Isn't drawing 'attention to them' a 'legitimate rhetorical purpose'?
    – NNOX Apps
    Sep 18 '14 at 9:31
  • Sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to check if you had received my comments above?
    – NNOX Apps
    Oct 19 '14 at 8:31

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