Monday, September 19, 2011

Obsolete English Grammar Rules (and other grammar rules not so obsolete)

            Do you still follow these 2 rules when you write? You’ll be happy to know that they are obsolete. You should forget them!

·         Never end a sentence with a preposition.

This ridiculous rule has made writing difficult for everyone for years. Winston Churchill once wrote this awkward sentence: “This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.” It doesn’t really make sense, but at least it doesn’t end with a preposition. You may now write, “This is the kind of arrant pedantry I shall not put up with” and not be considered a grammar ignoramus.

·         Never begin a sentence with the word “but”.

Actually, “but” is a great word to use to start a sentence. It signals to the reader that you are changing direction. Feel free to use the word “but” at the start of a sentence whenever you like. But be careful not to overuse this tactic; it will make your writing choppy.

            William Safire reminds us that the following rules are still in effect, and you should follow them to the letter:

·         Never generalize.
·         Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
·         Remember to never split an infinitive.
·         Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

Now you have all the latest grammar knowledge you need in order to finish writing that Great American Novel on which you’ve been working. Hmm…that sounds wrong. lol

Check out these interesting and helpful sources:
Grothe, M. (2011). neverisms. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, p. 318.
Strunk, W. & White, E.B. (2000). Elements of Style (fourth edition). New York: Longman.

P.S. Strunk & White have also OK'd the split infinitive if it helps the flow of the sentence. Star Trek fans will be pleased to know that it is now acceptable "to boldly go where no man has gone before".