Grammar Rules That Aren’t Really Rules

Confession time. I can be a bit of a stickler for grammar when I listen people speak. But sometimes pedantic bastards can be a bit full of themselves and 100% wrong all at once. The only time I really get on someone’s case is when an overzealous pedant comes along calling out others on their grammar, but misspells or misuses a word themselves in the process. If you are going to haughtily bitch at someone about something, you had better get it right yourself. Don’t know what I am talking about? So here are a few grammar rules to avoid throwing in the faces of others. None of these are actually hard and fast rules.

1. Never end a sentence in a preposition – This is one of the most commonly tossed around non-rules. This isn’t actually a rule at all. In many cases it is perfectly fine, and in others it isn’t wrong, but rather the preposition was simply unnecessary. Example: “Where are you at?” The “at” is unnecessary. Where as in the sentence “Which store are you at” it works. Grammar crazed lunatics will tell you it should be “At which store are you” but who the hell talks like that? Honestly.

But it can go both ways. The quote “Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put” by people trying to prove this point usually attribute it to Winston Churchill. There is no actual record of him ever saying this. Get your shit straight before being an ass, people.

2. Split Infinitives – A long time ago some crazed grammarians decided that the English language needed to be more like Latin, and made up the rule that you cannot split an infinitive. This has a major flaw. Of course Latin didn’t use split infinitives, because that would mean breaking up a single word into two words. I would go deep into it, but you should really just trust me on this one. This is not a rule, people. Without split infinitives we would never have had the phrase “To boldly go where no man/one has gone before.” Sure, it can be called sloppy and lazy writing, but it is not in fact a “rule”.

3. Never start a sentence with “and” or “but” (conjunctions) – Again, a totally made up and incorrect rule. While I don’t know where this one originated, I can say why it is in such wide circulation. Try teaching a 6 year old why it is ok in some cases, but it isn’t ok to say “And then we went to the store. And then we went to the zoo. And then I saw a lion. And then I had some cotton candy.” It is easier to simply say “never do it” than try to get deeply into it, so teachers just tend to stick to that.

4. “None” should only be used in the singular tense – This one is just flat out wrong. Again, while it can be called lazy because you can use “not one” or “not any” often in it’s place, there is nothing wrong with it being used in the plural sense.

So have fun with language, but in the words of Wil Wheaton… don’t be a dick. Hell, William Shakespeare is one of the most applauded word slingers of the English language, and he just made up words to suit his needs. And for the record, I broke all of these “rules” in my opening paragraph.

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4 thoughts on “Grammar Rules That Aren’t Really Rules

  1. I write like I talk, which is pretty decent. And if there had been anything in this forum that was considered horrible grammar on a consistent basis, I would not follow, but I do follow even those with occasional grammar mistakes if it is good material anyway. Sounds like somebody got on your case!

    • Haha! No. Nobody got on my anything. The subject just comes up regularly among my friends. Last night I came across a tweet about grammar, said “Why the hell not” and wrote the post.

  2. I know I’m late on this, but I was laughing about the conjunctions rule because I could relate. I taught first grade for two years, and I pretty much felt hypocritical about everything I told them. Now that they’re fifth graders, I feel like they’re probably thinking: “Ms. Schatz lied to us about everything!”

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