Motivation: I recently used this phrase:
(1) people who read English prescriptive grammar books
I was aware from personal experience that a significant number of people (maybe not a majority, but enough to notice a pattern) have, in the context of linguistics and related language disciplines, associated the terms prescriptive/ist/ism with negative opinions.
For this reason, I would have preferred to avoid this term, but it really was the most accurate and apt for my intended meaning. Someone had asked what they should do with language, and I wanted to tell them what I thought the consensus on this matter was among people who, as a profession or hobby, give advice on how people should use language. To me, this information is contained in prescriptive grammar books (and places like EL&U, of course). I do not know what else or better to call them. Some other words that come to mind are less accurate to me (and not synonymous): traditional grammar books, grammar books, popular grammar books. And another option is I think almost surely offensive: "correct grammar" books.
So I went with (1), thinking that my neutral content and tone would not suggest any negative intent, but some people were highly offended and accused me repeatedly of meaning something negative despite my insisting multiple times to not mean anything negative.
Question: Was this a fluke, or is there a context or community where these terms are always offensive by default? I understand that, if I said "She is smart for a prescriptivist", I would be taken by most competent speakers to be implying something negative about prescriptivists. I am not asking about such cases. I am asking about cases like (1) that might reasonably be defended as neutral or even positive, depending on context.
Secondarily, is there another term in common use that I could use instead, to avoid potential problems?
Wiktionary lists no derogatory sense of prescriptivist. Dictionary.com lists no derogatory sense of prescriptivist. COED has no entry specifically for prescriptivist (nor do most other dictionaries I checked) but lists no derogatory sense for prescriptive. COED notes that prescriptive is often contrasted with descriptive, as I was intending it. OED lists no derogatory sense for any of these, but some of the quotes used have a negative tone. So if it is automatically taken as offensive by some, I presume it is a very new development or confined to a small community or special context. And I imagine that you guys are the ones that would know.