It is tempting to distinguish between descriptive (objective, scientific) and prescriptive (normative, subjective) attitudes to language. Large parts of the present book show that the distinction is not as straightforward as it seems. The history of English is here understood not only in terms of language use but of linguistic norms and ideals. Of its sixteen chapters, ten (18, 12, 16) deal with linguistic norms rather than practice; two others (9 on politeness, 15 on business correspondence of the 19th century [sic]) discuss the influence of social norms on linguistic behaviour. Given the importance of correctness in the 18th-century discourse on language, such emphasis is only appropriate; it also gives the volume a more general, socio-cultural interest which the linguistic portraits of other centuries can hardly hope for.