When you’re doing your own writing, the first things that likely come to mind are the grammar rules you learned in school (assuming you learned any, of course). Dangling modifiers might appear in consciousness, for example. However, several of these grammar rules are actually not rules, and not holding yourself to them will actually free up your writing.
Not-a-Grammar-Rule #1: Ending With Prepositions
This rule apparently became popular in the 18th century or so, possibly due to Latin being a cool language. Unfortunately for those people, English and Latin are not related. Although they belong to the larger group of Indo-European languages, they are not directly connected. Latin turned into the Romance languages, and English, by contrast, is a Germanic language.
I’m certainly not about to tell you that it’s okay to squeezewordstogether like German does. However, you can leave a preposition at the end of a sentence if you need to.
Not-a-Grammar-Rule #2: Never Begin a Sentence With “And”
I learned to never start a sentence with “and” in grade two, and I imagine the reason for this was simple: Mrs. Fenlon wanted me and my classmates to improve our writing. Let’s face it, starting several sentences in a row with “and” makes for boring writing.
Not-a-Grammar-Rule #3: Never Begin a Sentence With “But”
In my opinion, you need to be more careful here. Because “but” is such a strong-sounding word in English, it stands out more, at least to my ears. I will start a sentence with “but” for greater impact, but my preference is to usually keep it within a larger sentence. I believe it improves flow. But don’t take my word for it.
Grammar rules are important. They help keep your writing clean, make it easier to read, and along with the words in each sentence, build context so your overall message is better understood. However, some of the grammar rules you learned in school may not apply to your adult life.
For those other burning grammar questions, though, where you know you need to follow a rule, I’ve got two suggestions for you: check out Grammar Girl or Upwordly Mobile for your answer. Both are great online repositories for English grammar rules that explain everything in plain English. Grammar Girl even has a podcast, so if you’re trying to improve your grammar on your own, turning in to her could be just the ticket.
And if you spot an error in this blog post, email me, please. It almost never fails: whenever I write about writing, there’s always a typo.