In linguistics, prescription denotes normative practices on such aspects of language use as spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and syntax. It includes judgments on what usages are socially proper and politically correct. Its aims may be to establish a standard language, to teach what is perceived within a particular society to be correct forms of language, or to advise on effective communication. If usage preferences are conservative, prescription might (appear to) be resistant to language change; if the usage preferences are radical, prescription may produce neologisms.
Prescriptive approaches to language, concerned with how the prescriptivist recommends language should be used, are often contrasted with the alternative approach of descriptive linguistics, which observes and records how language actually is used. The basis of linguistic research is text (corpus) analysis and field studies, both of which are descriptive activities; but description includes each researcher's observations of his or her own language usage. Despite apparent opposition, prescription and description can inform each other, since comprehensive descriptive accounts must take into account speaker attitudes, while some understanding of how language is actually used is necessary for prescription to be effective.