Grammatical error – or not?

One shouldn’t split infinitives, right? (To boldly go, anyone…?)
Or end a sentence with a preposition? (“This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”)
And everyone knows you shouldn’t start a sentence with “And”, or that “dinner is done and people are finished” and that “Hopefully” it is “children who are reared and crops that are raised…”

Right or wrong?

Check out this wonderful site, if you want a handy reference. Better still, buy the book.

And I really can say “My last book is entitled Song of the Shiver Barrens.” Chaucer said so.


Grammatical error – or not? — 12 Comments

  1. Not being a writer, other than a blog, I don’t have to worry to much about such things, but “up with which I shall not put” has always been one of my favourite quotes. Great man our Winston.

  2. Um, maybe preposition rather than proposition, heheh.

    For me the rules are more guidelines … I avoid crossing them too often, but don’t consider it a capital offence if I do. ;P

  3. How things change. 🙂

    When my mother was at school kids were taught a whole pile of “rules” that made very little sense, many of which were regularly broken by Shakespeare and even Dickens.

    When I was at school such rules were starting to go out of fashion, but being able to spell, use the correct word and communicate clearly were regarded as vital to your career success.

    These days, who cares? I have pretty much given up trying to teach work colleagues the difference between “affect” and “effect”, for example. I regularly see business reports and presentations that, even though written with the spell checker enabled, are full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, and invented words (and I mean words invented by the writer, not business jargon). No one seems to care. I suspect it won’t be long before I start getting told that pointing out other people’s errors is evidence that I am “not a team player”.

  4. I do so agree with you Cheryl. I suspect that if we came back in 100 years time we wouldn’t comprehend what people were writing or talking about. I still try and apply the rules I was taught as a kid, although I don’t exactly remember them as they were taught to me. Not sure where you live, but in North America invented or changed words are a frequent occurrence.

  5. Thanks for that site, Glenda. I love that kind of thing. Of course, as a “grumpy” former English teacher, it’s hardly surprising.

  6. The English language has never stopped evolving for better or worse although
    it can be taken to extremes.
    I heard from a school teacher that a student handed in an essay written entirely in SMS txt shorthand.

  7. Sigh. Preposition. Preposition. Fixed now. Propositions are fine anywhere, at least if they are either interesting or lucrative.

    I suspect you are right, Cheryl. Which is sad. Although rules can and often have been in the past carried to stupid extremes, their aim is clear communication, and we drop too many of them at risk of confusion.

    The rules I hate are the ones where, when you follow them, you end up sounding wrong, even if when you are grammatically correct.

  8. The link has a bogus “” at the beginning.

    Great book; I think I got it for my birthday (along with another, similar book) and loved it.

    IIRC, the don’t-end-with-preposition and don’t-split-infinitives “rules” were bogus inventions of someone writing up grammar rules for English based on Latin (why on earth?!), where it’s not possible to do such things. How silly is that? (Hopefully that’s not an urban legend….)

  9. Re. the bogus link, glenda, there might be a blank space between the opening inverted comma and the url, i.e.: a href=” http.. etc. That can cause the url to pop itself in there.

    I think the problem with split infinitives is they have a basic di-DAH-di-DAH rhythm which, once you have dropped into it, is rather habit-forming and difficult to break out of.* (I remember one of the old AD&D handbooks seemed to adopt it as a writing style and after a while it ended up being somewhat comical, like a teenager trying oh-so-hard to look ‘cool’.) But used occasionally, and very sparingly, it can give just the effect you want, the right rhythym to the prose, where following the ‘rules’ would be less effective or (as glenda says) just sound downright awkward.

    If the Star Trek writers had opted for ‘Boldly to go’ (a more complex spoken rhythym, DAH-di-di-dah, more ‘falling’ than ‘rising’) I wonder whether it would have been so memorable in popular culture.

    * yeah, maybe I just broke a rule there too, heh.

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