When I was promoting The Secret Life of Words, I found that the same questions came up again and again: Should there be spelling reform? Do we need to fight to save the apostrophe? How is the internet changing English?

My sense that these were common concerns led me to write The Language Wars.

The book's subtitle is "A history of proper English". I was keen for "proper" to be printed in italics, to make it clear that I was questioning the very notion of "proper"-ness. I'm not of the "anything goes" school, but, as I say in the book, "The history of prescriptions about English ... is in part a history of bogus rules, superstitions, half-baked logic, groaningly unhelpful lists, baffling abstract statements, false classifications, contemptuous insiderism and educational malfeasance."

Nevertheless I often find myself invited, by broadcasters or festival programmers, to lay down the law about what constitutes correctness. That really isn't my bag. From what I can make out, I'd have earned a lot more money if it were.