Horror! Terror! Grammar!
Halloween is supposed to be spooky, but you don’t need to be filled with fright at the thought of mastering grammar. In fact, some of the more terrifying grammar rules you were told around campfires as a kid (…No? Just me?) aren’t even real. Here’s a list of five grammar rules that have been slaughtered, slain, or were never really there in the first place.
1. Don’t End a Sentence with a Preposition
I’ll call this the Frankenstein Rule, because it was “created” through the combination of two languages. It began to be taught to small, unsuspecting children when Latin was focused on as a core component of education and considered the more sophisticated and elegant of languages. While it’s true that in Latin you cannot end a sentence with a preposition like on, at, for, in, etc., the same does not hold for English.
Naturally, there are times when you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition (e.g., in formal writing), but in a general sense, let those prepositions trail at the end of the sentence like the slowest kid during a zombie attack.
2. Don’t Use “They” as a Singular Pronoun
This rule has been MURDERED! (And no one was sad about it.) No longer are English speakers confined to saying “he or she”/“him or her” every time a gender isn’t known! Talk about the comfort of dawn after a long night staving off vampires.
3. Don’t Start a Sentence with a Conjunction
I compare it to a jump-scare: a quick way to cause a spook. It might be lame to start a sentence with a word like and, or, but, etc., but it’s not a crime. Perhaps it’s informal, but all the same, fair game when it comes to sentence structure (I just did it in the last paragraph), according to nearly every style guide in existence.
4. Use Two Spaces After a Period
If we’re going to continue the theme of Halloween, the two spaces after a period is a superstition, like avoiding black cats on October 31st or saying “bloody Mary” in a mirror three times to summon the ghost of a murderous queen (as an aside, why would you want to?). Someday, this will be its own blog post, but until then, trust me on this: do not use two spaces after a period, and do not go investigate any noises coming from the basement.
Of all the things that go bump in the night, two spaces after a period is at the top of my list. Spare your readers the cringe and try to change your ways. I’m begging you.
5. Do Not Split Infinitives
When someone tells you that you’ve split an infinitive, they are playing games with your head, like Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, and some may argue, just as cruel.
An infinitive is a two-word form of a verb. Again, like summoning most demons, this makes more sense in Latin than it does in English, but it’s essentially to [INSERT VERB HERE]. A split infinitive is what happens if you put a word (typically an adverb, aka a word that describes the action) between the “to” and the verb. The famous Star Trek example is “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Some said shame on the Trekkies for splitting the infinitive to go, but the edict to not split an infinitive is not a real rule. You can learn more about why this terrible law was thrust upon on us, but the main point is that you can split those suckers all you want.
Now that we’ve vanquished those lingering grammar demons, you can rest easy knowing that there’s no boogeyman under your bed or sentences starting with conjunctions lurking in your closet.