Grammar rules were put in place for a reason. After all, if we all were to willy-nilly put words on a page in whatever order, pattern, or spelling we felt like, it'd be super difficult for any of us to figure out is peson the wat oter saying. See what I mean?
Grammar rules make everything we write clear, uniformed, professional, and easy to understand. And like any writer and editor, I follow these time-tested rules at all costs.
Well, most of them.
While there are countless grammar rules that stand the test of time, others are old and way too stilted for the world we live in now. These old grammar rules can be broken from time to time, or at a minimum, bent to meet our needs.
4 Older Grammar Rules That I Don't Mind Breaking Every So Often
Starting sentences with conjunctions
I wrote about this before, and eagle-eyed editors may have noticed I broke this rule at least once already in this post. Old-schoolers will tell you never to start a sentence with and, but, so, or, for, nor, or yet. Yet, there is no rule written down anywhere that definitively backs up this claim. Short of writing for academia, there is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction. Don't overuse the privilege. But if it makes sense, do it!
A contraction is a word or phrase that has been shortened by dropping one or more letters and replacing them with an apostrophe (it's, don't, isn't, you're, I've, they're, etc.). There's nothing grammatically wrong with contractions, but you also have to know your audience. If you're in the world of academia or are writing in a more formal setting, then yes, avoid using them. For nearly everyone else, contractions make writing conversational, friendly, accessible, and easier to read.
Two spaces between sentences
Admittedly, this is more of a style choice than a grammar error. But perhaps nothing says "showing your age" more than using two spaces between sentences. Most of us old-timers who regularly used typewriters remember spacing twice after each sentence to clearly define the end of one sentence and the start of another. Most fonts and programs today adjust characters for us, making the "double space" unnecessary. Interestingly, using two spaces between sentences is now being shown as an error on Microsoft Word.
Ending a sentence with a preposition
Lots of people consider this an error, and I agree. It is better to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition (with, to, on, in, at, of, etc.). But, I also argue that, in many cases, it makes complete sense to break this rule if it helps us avoid confusing or awkward writing. For example, would you prefer to write, "From where did this ball come?" No, you'd write, "Where did this ball come from?" By the same token, it's better to write, "I will not put up with John" vs. "John is someone I will not put up with."
These are old grammar rules that I don't mind breaking as a writer and editor. But that doesn't mean that I – or you – need to make a habit of breaking them. Like I said earlier, grammar rules were put in place for a reason. We should honor them. At the same time, don't ignore the situation and who your audience is. If going against the grain makes sense, and it will make your writing easier to understand, then don't let an old-school rule get in your way.
What older grammar rules do you ignore from time to time? Send me an email at email@example.com or reply to this blog post. I'd love to hear your take on this conversation.
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