Dennis Baron

Professor of English, emeritus

Research professor of English and linguistics

photo: Brian Stauffer, 2019


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

email Dennis Baron

office: 251 English
English department: 217-333-2390
fax: 217-333-4321

Guggenheim Fellow 2016-17

Research interests:

  • I'm currently writing a book titled Unprotected Speech: What you can and cannot say and why.

Must reads:

What's Your Pronoun? Beyond he and she. Liveright, 2020

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
  • Pronouns and gender

My vita





What's your pronoun? Beyond 'he' and 'she.' Liveright, January, 2020. Click to order.

Order your copy of What's Your Pronoun?

Chapters include: the missing word; the words that failed; the politics of he; the missing word is singular they; and an annotated chronology of gender-neutral and nonbinary pronouns from 1789 to the present.

Author appearances:

Feb. 4: New York Public Library, 6:30 pm, Schwartzman Building.

Feb. 5: Politics and Prose, Washington DC.

Feb. 6: Cuyahoga County Library, Cleveland: Parma Branch, 7 pm

Feb. 11: Kansas City (Mo) Public Library,  6:30 pm

Feb. 16: Town Hall, Seattle 7:30 pm   

Feb. 17: Powells Bookstore, Cedar Hills Crossing,  Portland OR,  7 pm

Feb. 18: City Lights Books, San Francisco, 7 pm 

and don't forget . . .

A Better Pencil: Readers, writers, 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:

Black Words Matter: Read "Ebonics and the Politics of English" (2000) 

"Guns and grammar: Linguistic authority and legal interpretation in District of Columbia v. Heller."

The Linguists Brief in District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008), our brief on the linguistics of the Second Amendment (the one about the right to bear arms).

"Speak the Language of Your Flag: America's war on language, 1918-2018"

The Writer's Meme




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)

and there's the art . . .

When People Roamed the Earth


my children's book:
what would happen if dinosaurs were alive today and people lived long ago?


Cartoons --

click for a portfolio of the artist



The words that failed: A chronology of nonbinary pronouns An extensive list of proposals and comments on what to say when gender is unknown or irrelevant, from the 1790s to the present. Soon to be a major new book.

What's your pronoun? Are singular they and nonbinary pronouns ruining the language or making English great again? An illustrated talk, 2017 version.

The president's reading lesson: George Bush reads "The Pet Goat" while the towers fall.

The Noun Game: a simple grammar lesson leads to a clash of civilizations.

Language lessons: It's time for English teachers to stop teaching that the earth is flat.

Don't Make English Official--ban it instead.

Letter to a high school English teacher

Grammar sticklers may have OCD

A brief history of singular they

America's War on Language

Literally has always been figurative

The politics of he

A spelling reformer writes to Mr. Lincoln