Look, I’ll just say it. Some grammar rules are more like guidance.
Perhaps not in academia. Certainly not in school. But once your grad hat’s airborne, you can chuck the rules with it.
I can hear the distant sirens of the Grammar Police fast approaching as I type this. I don’t know how long I have before they reach me, so heed these five quick myths:
Never start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’
This one’s ringing a bell, isn’t it? Used by teachers to stop kids stringing sentences together, it’s still a fave of homework-laden teachers today.
But it’s codswallop if you’re single-minded in what you’re writing. Starting a sentence with ‘and’ adds rhythm, or neat emphasis in a ‘rule of three’ run of sentences. It’s how we speak. And it’s a whole lot pithier than ‘additionally’ or ‘moreover’.
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Kingsley Amis:
“And the idea that and must not begin a sentence, or even a paragraph, is an empty superstition. The same goes for but.”
Always write in full sentences
“Sentences must have a subject, verb and object.”
Wait. Our brains enjoy the variety and rhythm of different length sentences. Which means sometimes only one word will do. See? Or two. Or even three.
Writing feels onerous when you’re forcing yourself to follow a specific sentence structure. Go with your own flow, dude.
Don't, ahem, do not use contractions
At Reed Words, we’ve got a knack for writing as you’d speak (in an ideal world, that is, with focus, structure and finesse). This means we wouldn’t write, ‘We have got a knack for writing as you would speak’.
It’s longer, more convoluted and overly formal. And as a result, it’s less likely you’ll land the point you’re trying to make.
Don’t use ‘you’
In academic writing, you don’t address the reader directly. But in almost all other kinds of writing, involving the reader is exactly what we want to do.
What’s more, ‘you’ is thought to be one of the most persuasive words in the English language. You can’t help but like the sound of it, can you?
Don’t verb a noun
‘Shall we table it or action it?’
Yes, nominalisation is overused in the corporate world. But as a brand, it’s a chance to infiltrate the eardrums of even more people.
‘Want to Uber there?’
‘Let me Google that.’
Rule-sticklers risk missing out.
On a scale of Hermione Granger to Ferris Bueller, how rebellious are you feeling today?
And your teacher’s pet bonus question: how many times did we start a sentence with and?