Michael Stuart Kelly

Three Grammar Rules You Can (And Should) Break

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The story I've heard about ending a sentence with a preposition, and about split infinitives, is that they date from the Enlightenment period, when grammarians thought English ought to be more like Latin and Greek. Much of the time in these languages you do the work of a prepositional phrase by altering a noun's or a pronoun's grammatical case, not using a preposition at all; "from the city" would be "the city" in the genitive, and "to the city" would be the dative, and so forth. With no preposition anywhere, you have no preposition at the end. English doesn't work this way, but these guys thought it should.

Similarly, in the classical languages, as in French and a lot of others, an infinitive is a single word. You can't split it even if you want to.

Split infinitives still strike me as stylistically and grammatically lowbrow.

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The story I've heard about ending a sentence with a preposition, and about split infinitives, is that they date from the Enlightenment period, when grammarians thought English ought to be more like Latin and Greek. Much of the time in these languages you do the work of a prepositional phrase by altering a noun's or a pronoun's grammatical case, not using a preposition at all; "from the city" would be "the city" in the genitive, and "to the city" would be the dative, and so forth. With no preposition anywhere, you have no preposition at the end. English doesn't work this way, but these guys thought it should.

Similarly, in the classical languages, as in French and a lot of others, an infinitive is a single word. You can't split it even if you want to.

Split infinitives still strike me as stylistically and grammatically lowbrow.

Yes, Reidy has hit it on the nail. The no-split-infinitive and no-final-preposition rules come from an attempt to impose Latin grammar on English. Those who know any German know that the no final preposition rule is not appropriate for a Germanic language like English. There's nothing wrong with using a split infinitive if it sounds fluid. It's mere pedantry to perversely insist otherwise.

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Rules 1 and 3 were created during a time when grammarians were trying to impose grammar rules for latin onto english. But, english is not latin, english follows its own set of rules of grammar. I also have no problem with beginning sentences with conjunctions.

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Yes, Reidy has hit it on the nail. The no-split-infinitive and no-final-preposition rules come from an attempt to impose Latin grammar on English. Those who know any German know that the no final preposition rule is not appropriate for a Germanic language like English. There's nothing wrong with using a split infinitive if it sounds fluid. It's mere pedantry to perversely insist otherwise.

Which sounds better?? "To boldly go where no man has gone to" or "To go boldly to where no man has gone"?

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I found this to be an interesting salvo against the grammar Nazis.

Obviously, if you are writing a masterpiece of literature or more formal writing, you will probably want to observe the rules a bit more. But for normal everyday writing like on a forum, this post is great advice. The idea is to write in the same manner you speak. This especially holds for the pre-sell writing you need in Internet marketing.

Three Grammar Rules You Can (And Should) Break

by Michelle Pierce

Copyblogger

April 13, 2009

Grammar rules exist so that we don’t sound like complete idiots when we write. Most of them have a good reason for being around; after all, clarity in communication is a good thing. A virtue, even.

However, that’s not to say that all grammar rules are written in stone. In fact, some of them seem to be the work of rabid grammarians, who gleefully enforce confusing syntax and awkward construction in the name of “proper English.”

To heck with that, I say. Here are three grammar rules that were made to be broken.

1. Ending a sentence with a preposition

I have no idea where this rule came from. What I do know is that many people, in an effort to keep from ticking off the Grammar Police, start twisting their sentences around so as not to end them with prepositions.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the new syntax is terribly awkward and painful to read. Take the first sentence of this section, for example. “From where this rule came” sounds like something Yoda would say, not me. A big part of blogging is showing your personality through words. How can you do that when you’re twisting your phrases to suit some archaic rule?

In the interest of clarity and readability, it’s quite all right to end a sentence with a preposition.

2. Beginning a sentence with “and” or “but”

Somebody, somewhere, once decided that you shouldn’t begin sentences with conjunctions. Maybe it was an overzealous teacher who thought her students were doing it too much. My guess is that it was frustrated mothers who got sick and tired of hearing their children start every single sentence with “But Mo-om!”

The rule even got screen time in the movie Finding Forrester, when Sean Connery and Rob Brown have an entire conversation about it (and deliberately start their sentences with the offending words in order to make their points).

Regardless of how it began, you don’t have to stick with it. It’s perfectly all right to start your sentences with “and” or “but.” It’s a great way to grab attention and emphasize a point. But, as in all things, take it in moderation.

3. Splitting infinitives

How often have you heard that you’re not allowed to let another word come between “to” and its verb? Some people hold that construction with the same reverence as is typically given to marriage: that which the writer hath wrought together, let no man tear asunder.

Except that it’s really not that big of a deal. Come on: “to go boldly where no man has gone before” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “to boldly go.” If it sounds better to split the infinitive, then take an axe to it!

Don’t cling to the ancient rules just because your high school English teacher told you to. Be a rebel and break free of these nonsensical shackles!

I highly recommend visiting Copyblogger (where this blog post is presented) for some excellent writing advice.

(There. That's two different backlinks for them to two different places on their blog in the same post. Actually there are 3 if you count the one in Pierce's text. smile.gif )

Michael

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

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I found this to be an interesting salvo against the grammar Nazis.

Obviously, if you are writing a masterpiece of literature or more formal writing, you will probably want to observe the rules a bit more. But for normal everyday writing like on a forum, this post is great advice. The idea is to write in the same manner you speak. This especially holds for the pre-sell writing you need in Internet marketing.

Three Grammar Rules You Can (And Should) Break

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

See http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=6897&p=67422 in this thread.

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In case anyone cares (actually, it does interest me), according to sources I came across last July, the attribution of that witticism to Winston Churchill is a misattribution - see.

Ellen

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