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The Write Stuff November 2019 Volume 15 Issue 11

Grammar Rules That No Longer Apply

The times they are a-changing, even when it comes to grammar. Now, I know some of you are going to have a hard time with this — especially those who still insist on putting two spaces after a period. (Definitely stop doing that.) You may have learned in school that the following three things are taboo, but even a grammar geek like me won’t bat an eye if you ignore the past and move confidently into the future, grammatically speaking.

1. You can end sentences with a preposition. That’s right, folks. If it makes more sense to end a sentence with of, with, at, from, etc. — you can safely do it without risking a visit from the grammar police. For example, consider these two options:

  • Who is he going to the meeting with?
  • With whom is he going to the meeting?

The second one — written so it doesn’t end with a preposition — is unnatural and awkward. According to ClearVoice.com, “this over-application of a real or perceived rule of grammar is called hypercorrection, and it’s usually produced by someone trying to appear formal or educated. In an attempt to apply the rule and be ‘correct,’ the result is incorrect by all modern usage standards.” Do you get from where I am coming?

2. You can split infinitives. What are infinitives? They’re two-word verb forms beginning with to, such as to read, to go, and to see — and they’re split when you add an adverb in the middle, like to intently read, to boldy go (for all you Trekkies), and to readily see. A book from 1864, The Queen’s English, said there was no good reason to split infinitives, and over the years that comment morphed into a rule that it was wrong to do so — but it isn’t. If the Oxford and Merriam-Webster English usage dictionaries are okay with splitting infinitives, you should be, too.

3. You can begin sentences with a conjunction. I admit it took me some time to wrap my head around this one — and someone recently questioned me when I started a sentence with and — but there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Same for but, so, or and any other conjunction. From the Chicago Manual of Style: “There is a widespread belief — one with no historical or grammatical foundation — that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.” So there.

I’m really anxious to get some feedback from you on this. Are you ready to “unlearn” these alleged grammar rules? I’m a convert.

A Capital Offense

There are three reasons to capitalize a word: to signal the start of a new sentence, to show important words in a headline, and to denote proper names and titles. Why do I bring this up? Yet again, I’ve run across a client that wants to capitalize words to emphasize their importance. This time, it’s not company or bank, but phrases like customer success and data security. Yuck. Instead of having the effect they want, random capitalization is likely to detract from readability and make people wonder why it was done. Just say (lowercase) no.

Grateful

Since Thanksgiving falls in November, it’s a good time to take stock of all our blessings. While it’s pretty easy to focus on things that aren’t as you wish, a healthier alternative is to concentrate on what you do have. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who supports my ability to successfully freelance: my clients as well as those I meet during my networking activities. On a personal level, I’m thankful to have a loving family; a great group of friends; and Cubbie, the little black-and-white dog I brought into my home more than three years ago. Gobble, gobble.

Published On: November 15th, 2019 / Categories: 2019 /

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