I have a constant battle going on with the world of grammar and it’s so-called rules. Partly because it depends on the grammar authority you’re utilizing (and the time period from which it came) and partly because, as a writer, I feel entitled to write the way I please.
Words, grammar, sentences, paragraphs, letters, commas, styles, the em dash, colon and semi-colon use, etc. It all swirls in my head in such a manner as to make me vomitous BUT only when I am required to think about it- or I should say, over-think it.
The Grammar Nazis
As a writer, my world is populated by Grammar Nazis- defined as those who believe they have the answer to creating the perfect written world, one in which a sort of grammatical “purification” must take place. These ideas, much like those of their World War II counterparts are not only misguided but dangerous.
A History of Breaking all the Rules
Certainly, no one would dare say legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt played his guitar “all wrong” as he adapted his playing style to accommodate the severe burns on the third and fourth fingers of his left hand. Reinhardt is one of the most renowned jazz guitarists of all time, largely due to his innovative and distinctive playing. Playing that breaks many rules your guitar teacher would say were, “hard and fast”.
Painters like Manet, Pollock, Picasso and Dali all broke rules and created new art forms. In fact, Salvador Dali was expelled from Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts) before he could take his exams, for making the comment that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him. It may have sounded arrogant to his professors but Dali knew what he held within his heart and just how he needed to express it. And the fact remains that Dali, whether he adhered to their rules or not, found an audience in those who felt they understood what he was trying to express.
There are countless other artists in all genres and forms (literature, poetry, visual arts, architecture, music composition, dance and cinema) that have flouted, changed, bent, broken or re-written rules to suit their need for self-expression. Is this not the true meaning of art?
Grammar Rules: Not as Clear as you May Think
The truth is, that for every rule (even grammatical) there is an exception. There are also many misconceptions about these “rules” that continue to be perpetuated.
Add to that, the different rules for each style of writing that one may be doing, such as poetry, business writing, fiction, non-fiction, journalism and the new guard of web and text rules. Then throw in the endless existing texts on grammar and punctuation from the thoroughly modern “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, to the standard for journalism-the “AP Stylebook” and old standbys like “Strunk and White” and “The Little, Brown Handbook” (all of which I own, but am loathe to use) and you’ve got enough to make your head spin.
It’s truly enough to keep you out of your mind, out of the business of creating art and instead in the head of an editor. And,while I acquiesce that editors are a necessary demon in our world, (I bow to their knowledge, patience and anality) I would not classify them as artists anymore than I would classify an art critic or art historian in that manner.
Bending or Breaking Some Rules on your Own
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wish to be clear and understood by my reader- which is, of course, the purpose of grammar and punctuation. But sometimes, I feel I get my point across better (the way I would say it or read it to someone in the same room with me) by making my own rules.
And just who am I, you might ask, to think I can make my own rules? I am a writer, a person, an artist much like the folks that inadvertently and then later purposefully created these grammar rules.
Why then, do I have to wait to become Joyce Carol Oates, Lewis Carroll, Anthony Burgess or Mark Twain before I can flout the rules like they did/do?
I refuse to wait. My time is now. This is what I am about. This is what I have come for.
Can you spot the supposed grammatical no-nos in my last sentences- I assure you, there are many throughout this piece. 😉
Below I have linked and copied what I think is one of the finest answers to the oft-quoted but completely erroneous rule that one cannot end a sentence with a preposition. It’s from the contributors at Wiki-Answers- ENJOY!
There is a very common misunderstanding that, in proper English grammar, one should never end a sentence with a preposition (of, at, on, in, etc.). This “rule” is absolutely incorrect!
It is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, as long as that preposition is critical to the meaning of the sentence. As a counter-example, it is incorrect to ask “Where is the library at“, because “at” is not necessary to the sentence. However, it is okay to ask “Whom are you most disappointed with?” You could rearrange the sentence to read “With whom are you most disappointed?”, but that just isn’t natural. And again, there is no rule that says you can’t end a sentence with a preposition, so why contort yourself in this awkward way?
This misconception probably has something to do with Latin. There is (or was), in fact, a rule in Latin that says one may not end a sentence with a preposition. As it turns out, the structure of Latin is (was) such that, even if it was legal to end a sentence with a preposition, it would look very ugly. Not so with the English language. In fact, quite the contrary. More often than not, you end up sounding ridiculous re-arranging your sentence just to get a preposition away from the end.
Some holier-than-thou jackasses insist, nevertheless, on applying this rule to the English language. The reasoning is based on the ridiculous notion that Latin is the purest and most perfect of all languages, and all other languages should do everything they can to emulate it. This it total BS! If Latin was worth a crap, there would be many people still speaking it, not just a handful of priests and college professors. Even the few people who speak it do so as a second language. That right there proves it’s useless in a practical sense. Our language has evolved away from Latin because Latin was not a good language. Latin is now a dead language. Let’s leave it that way, instead of trying to resurrect its ridiculous rules and apply them to a modern-day language that actually WORKS!
Winston Churchill once wrote a speech which, after review by proofreaders, came back with a correction to one of his sentences based on this “rule”. He sent it back to the proofreaders with a note of his own: “This is the sort of language up with which I will not put”. This is a perfect example of how one has to contort one’s sentences to obey this “rule”.
If the holier-than-thou jackasses want this to be a rule, then they can bring it up at the next meeting of the grammar society. Until then, a preposition is what I’m going to end this sentence with.
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