I think it all depends on what and how we were taught at school (or not as the case may be). Many people tell me that they were hopeless at English at school and that belief has stuck with them through into their adult life and, in some instances, it’s having a detrimental effect on their business. There are no hard and fast rules so I’m going to be writing series of blogs over the coming weeks that, hopefully, will get you to love grammar too.
We use grammar everyday whether we realise it or not in spoken as well as written language. There are, however, differences between what comes out of our mouths and what we write down on paper or on screen. From time to time though we need to think about certain things more than others and that’s when the uncertainty and the fear set in. Every grammatical problem has a solution and often it’s important that it should just be appropriate more than right.
I’m an avid reader and I’m convinced that the more we read, the more we get to understand grammar and how different writers choose to use it.
Rules that aren’t rules
Never use a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. Why not? Many writers do this to emphasise something.
- What’s a conjunction I hear you say? A conjunction is a word such as: as, and, because, but, for, if, of and when – they’re used to connect words, phrases, clauses and sentences.
Never split infinitives. Why not?
- What does this mean? One of the most famous examples of a split infinitive is the Star Trek quote: “to boldly go where no man has been before.” The adverb ‘boldly’ is splitting the infinitive of the verb ‘to go’. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘to go boldly…’.
- Here are some more examples:
- ‘to quietly read’ / ‘to read quietly’
- ‘to quickly write’ / ‘to write quickly’
- ‘to slowly run’ / ‘to run slowly’
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. Why not?
- What’s a preposition I hear you say again? Prepositions include: above, across, after, among, at, before, below, for, of, off, on, over, to, under and
- It depends on the tone of what you’re writing: e.g.
- ‘Who are we doing this for?’ – this reflects the way many people speak
- ‘For whom are we doing this?’ – this is more formal and impersonal.
- I was always taught never to start a sentence with ‘however’ or ‘therefore’. There’s nothing wrong with doing that these days but it’s a principle that I still uphold.
On the subject of sentences, here are some quick tips you can use to make sure your sentences are right:
- A sentence should start with a capital letter and end with a full stop, a question mark or an exclamation mark;
- A sentence will usually contain a verb and a subject;
- There’s no minimum or maximum length for a sentence, although if it’s long, use some punctuation to make it easier to read.
The main parts of speech in English are: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be looking at each of these and hopefully dispel any myths or uncertainties you may have.
Part 2 is all about Nouns, so if you want to find out more and have a go at the quick quiz to test your knowledge, click here
In the meantime, contact me if you would like to know more about how I could help you to overcome any fears or lack of confidence you may have about your writing.
Peter Clarke (aka ‘The OopsProofer’)