Grammar myths you can ignore

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about grammar myths…

When I was in high school, I learned how to crank out essays that could earn me an A, no problem. In fact, the very traditional school I attended — Convent of the Sacred Heart — was so tough that I found the first three years of my university degree to be substantially easier than high school.

Still, the nuns who taught me laboured under a number of grammar myths that irritated me profoundly.

For this reason, I was thrilled to see a recent post under the headline “4 Grammar Myths You Can Ignore” appear in the Write Practice blog. In it, writer Joslyn Chase identified four misleading directives. They include:

  1. Never start a sentence with a conjunction.
  2. Never end a sentence with a preposition
  3. Never split infinitives
  4. Never use double negatives

The first one, about conjunctions is the one that really gets to me!

I have battled this myth for decades now, and people often express shock that it’s okay to begin a sentence with and or but. Not only is it okay, it’s done in the Bible! (And then there was light.) I still don’t understand why the nuns at my school failed to notice that.

For formal writing, I can be slightly more sympathetic to rule #2, about not ending sentences with prepositions. Still, I buy the notion that it makes no sense to use such formality in dialogue (people just don’t speak that way).

As for rules 3 and 4, I mostly ignore them, too.