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January 14, 2012

Least Favorite Grammar Rules

Do you have a grammar rule you don't like? I don't mean a rule that truly makes sense or has a logical explanation...

...I mean rules that don't make sense when you think about them or are just plain odd - even when you follow the rules.

Here are some of my (least) favorites;
1. Avoid all adverbs
2 .Don’t use the passive voice.
3. Never end a sentence with a preposition
4. Avoid sentence fragments

Can you imagine how odd our language would be if we actually followed these rules?

How would we ever ask anyone where they are from? (violation of number 3, which itself is a violation of number 4)

Or how about a sentence like this one - without the adverbs?

Mary was usually quite punctual, but she had been too drunk to remember to set her alarm, and arrived late, cursing vehemently as she angrily climbed the stairs to work. (adverbs are in bold lettering)

Taking the adverbs out would make the sentence boring - if not incoherent.

In my writing, I use sentence fragments fairly often. They can be useful, and anything else might be too wordy or clunky. You may have noticed a few. Or not.

Passive writing can be very useful - especially if you want to be vague or evasive (and yes, there are legitimate situations where being vague or evasive can help someone save face in difficult circumstances). Consider how useful this statement might be; "Mistakes were made".

Instead of assigning blame, the focus could be on the problem, not on the person or persons responsible.

As always, send us any words or phrases that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle).

Posted by mmorf at January 14, 2012 11:26 PM


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