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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Dennis Baron

Dennis Baron

Dennis Baron is Professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Contact Information

208 English Building | MC-718


Research Interests

Language and Law; Technologies and communication; language policy: the English-only movement; language legislation and linguistic rights; minority languages and dialects; language and gender; language reform and the history of the English language.


Recent Articles

“No Students Left Behind: Why Reports on the Literacy Crisis from the Spellings Commission, the ACT, and the ETS Just Don’t Read America’s Literacy Right.” College Composition and Communication 61.1 (Sept. 2009): 398-409.

“Can commas shoot down gun control?” Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2007. Rpt. Oxford Magazine no. 264 (Oxford Univ.), Spring (second week, Trinity term) 2007, pp. 12-13.; also rpt., The Green Bag, second series, vol. 10, no. 40 (Quarterly Law review of the George Mason School of Law), Summer 2007.

“Don't write off the pencil just yet.” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 2007, A15.

“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.  Rpt. in Lynn Bloom and Louise Smith, The Arlington Reader, 2e., New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

“Don’t Make English Official—Ban It Instead.” [rpt. of 1996 Washington Post 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.

“The President’s Reading Lesson” Education Week (Sept. 8, 2004).

“Master of the Universe: English is a world language. Will it soon become the only language?” Science and Spirit (Nov./Dec., 2004).

“It’s Just Grammar. Whom Really Cares?” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2004, B17.

“No Translation Needed: ‘Door Is Closed.’” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2004, M5.

“McLanguage Meets the Dictionary.” Chronicle of Higher Education. Dec. 19, 2003, B14.

“Teaching Grammar Doesn’t Lead to Better Writing.” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 16, 2003, B20.

“America Doesn’t Know What the World Is Saying.” Op-Ed essay, The New York Times, Oct. 27, 2001, A21.

“Ebonics and the Politics of English.” World Englishes 19 (March, 2000): 5-19.

Book Chapters

“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.

“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.

“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. 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.


A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers and the Digital Revolution. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, August, 2009. Translated into Chinese, 2010; English language paperback edition, 2012.

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

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

Declining Grammar and other essays on the English vocabulary. Urbana: NCTE, 1989.

Grammar and Gender. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1986.

Grammar and Good Taste: Reforming the American Language. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1982.

Work in progress

English makes you fat, teaching grammar stops violence, the Second Amendment hinges on a comma, and other mischief and misinformation from the Web of Language.

What writers do.

Language and law. A book on the various intersections of language and the law: including topics how the law makes meaning; language legislation and linguistic rights; language as property; language control and protections in the workplace; government surveillance of communication and the protection of privacy; forensic linguistics.

Supreme Court Amicus Brief

Brief for Professors of Linguistics and English Dennis E. Baron, Ph.D., Richard W. Bailey, Ph.D., and Jeffrey P. Kaplan, Ph.D. in support of petitioners. District of Columbia, et al., v. Dick Anthony Heller. 07-290. 2008.