Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Old School Writing Rules--Keep or Break?
by Heather Smith
Throughout our career as English students we’re taught that grammar and punctuation rules are unbreakable. However, any foray into the world of journalistic writing, from blogging to writing for print or online media, will show that these rules aren’t as unbreakable as we were once taught. In fact, many of them are downright obsolete at this point. Here are five old-school writing rules that are just begging to be broken:
1. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction
For years upon years we’ve been told not to start sentences with words like “and,” “but,” or any other conjunction. And at one point that rule may have held. But not anymore. Starting a sentence with one of these words can give it a bit of edge and shows that we’re moving from one thought to the next. Besides, it’s consistent with the way we talk in everyday life.
This rule-breaker applies to coordinating conjunctions, which are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.
2. Double space at the end of a sentence
We no longer put two spaces at the end of a sentence. Originally, the extra space was used because manuscripts were typed on typewriters and then given to a typesetter to re-type, and the double space helped the typesetter recognize the minuscular dot was indeed a period and not a comma. Now that manuscripts are transmitted electronically and typesetters no longer re-type, there’s no reason to add the extra space. In fact, doing so is greatly frowned upon.
3. Concluding sentences with prepositions
Let’s be honest, ending sentences with prepositions is where it’s at. A good rule to follow: if a sentence makes sense without the preposition then you should ditch it, but if the preposition is what makes the sentence comprehendible, then you should keep it. A sentence that flow—whether it ends with a preposition or not—is much more acceptable than an awkward sentence that obeys the rules.
4. Put three to five sentences in each paragraph
Paragraphs are not always three to five sentences in length. In fact, sometimes they’re only one sentence in length. Open any book, newspaper, or magazine, and you’re likely to see this in action because one-liners can be the most effective paragraphs in an article or story, adding a nice little pause before hitting the reader with something thought-provoking or unexpected.
Don’t you agree?
5. Avoid incomplete sentences
Incomplete sentences are all the rage. Right? They’re often witty and can add interest to your prose. However, you need to understand the rules to break the rules. An incomplete sentence should either complete a thought started in a previous sentence or add something left out. Or add a bit of punch.
Writing has to change with the times to remain effective and coherent. As writing becomes more casual and conversational, some of the older, stricter, and more established grammar and punctuation rules are becoming outdated and unnecessary. Know the old rules, know the new rules, and know when to break the rules.
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to hire a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.