Learning English as children growing up in America (or New Zealand, England, or Australia, I imagine) is easy. The words and grammar just seem to flow into our ears and fall out of our mouths. We don’t think about it much. Learning English formally in school, though, is another story.
Suddenly we have all these terms and rules to learn that make this native tongue, that we thought we had down, very confusing. But we struggle through, and we do learn the rules, whether they make sense to us or not. And as adults, we diligently use them in our writing in the hopes that we don’t come across as idiots.
Have you noticed though, that the way we communicate formally (whether spoken or written) has gotten more casual over the last few decades, and a lot of people seem to be ignoring many of these rules? In fact, in some media outlets, a blog for example, a more rule-based formal style can come off as stodgy and pretentious.
That is not to say you should ignore all grammar conventions and go commando in your blog; it is just that some rules like the one about who/whom or whether it’s OK to start a sentence with “and” are going out of style. We don’t often follow these rules when we speak, and blogging is a style of writing that is similarly informal. That is one of the reasons for its popularity.
Here are the five grammar rules most commonly broken in blogs. Take a look at the sentences I present below and see which you would be more likely to say. And then feel free to break those rules in your own blog.
Always use “whom” when referring to the object of a sentence.
Following the Rule: This man, whom we all call “Jack,” is an ass.
Breaking the Rule: Perry, who everyone thought had a funny-shaped head, was back.
2. Split Infinitives
Never put anything (like an adverb) between the word “to” and its verb.
Following the Rule: Barbara wanted to sit carefully as not to wrinkle her dress.
Breaking the Rule: Frank was able to quickly duck out of the way of Suzie’s flying shoe.
When the subject of a sentence is singular (he or she) never then refer to that same subject with the plural form (they or them).
Following the Rule: A patient with an aneurysm is treated with the highest priority. He or she is rushed to the front of the line.
Breaking the Rule: When a patient starts hitting other patients in the waiting room, you have to remove them.
4. And/But Sentences
Never start a sentence with the word “And” or “But.”
Following the Rule: Peter, Paul and Mary went to the store and bought some candy and then ate it and then got sick and then ate some more and then vowed they would never do that again, but they did anyway.
Breaking the Rule: Piper, Frank and Evangeline went to dinner, got food poisoning, and ended up in the hospital. And you’ll never guess what happened next–the restaurant bribed them to keep their mouths shut about it.
5. Preposition Endings
Never end a sentence with a preposition.
Following the Rule: On whom did the water balloon fall?
Breaking the Rule: Peter kept moving because he was afraid he’d get stepped on.
One caveat: I will say, if you are trying to attract patients from the English Department of a nearby university, you probably should just ignore this blog all together and stick to the rules. 😉