Some grammar rules can be broken (see last week’s post about grammar rules to break by clicking here). As writing has become more casual, some grammar rules have become somewhat outdated. As the writer, you determine what is the best style for your reader, casual or more formal. If casual, such as a blog post, then you’ll definitely want to consider breaking some grammar rules.
We’ll look at three grammar rules to break: ending a sentence with a preposition; using one as subject; using at least 5 sentences for a paragraph.
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
Prepositions are words that show relationships, usually with space and time.
For example, the following are prepositions: of, on, out, at, in, for, before, to , under, over. Just google and you can find a list.
I’m not sure where I first learned this rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition, but I do know it’s ingrained in my brain. This is one rule I purposefully tell myself it’s okay to break!
- I asked him where he’s from.
You’re not going to say, I asked him from where he is. We don’t speak that way, and you don’t have to write like that! So this sentence is okay. So is the following:
- What did you paint with?
Again, you’re probably not going to write this: With what did you paint?
There’s another situation where you often see prepositions at the end of a sentence. A certain type of verb is called a phrasal verb. That means that these verbs have specific meanings when used with a preposition. Some examples: step on; break down; bring it on; come up.
Correct sentences with phrasal verbs ending with prepositions:
- I told him that if he thought he could beat me in tennis, then bring it on!
- When her daughter got in a car accident, she understandably had a break down.
One kind of situation does not need a preposition. Read the following sentence:
Where are you at?
This sentence ends with the preposition at, so why isn’t it correct? The at is not needed. You can simply write, Where are you?
In a situation where you can eliminate the preposition and retain the meaning, then eliminate the preposition.
Don’t Use You as the Subject
Have you seen writing using as the subject the pronoun one?
- When first walking in the front door of the restaurant, one finds a large area of tables on the right and a huge mural of Charlotte on the wall.
One is an indefinite pronoun in the third person point of view. It’s often used because in the past many writers were taught not to use you.
In writing we use three points of view:
1st person, using as the subject the pronouns I or we.
2nd person, using as the subject the pronoun you.
3rd person, using as the subject the prounouns one; he; she; they
It is acceptable to use one, but it’s more formal. My recommendation is to use you or we.
Let me show you by revising the above sentence.
- When first walking in the front door, you find a large area of tables on the right and a huge mural of Charlotte on the wall. (second person)
- When first walking in the front door, we find a large area of tables on the right and a huge mural of Charlotte on the wall. (first person plural)
A paragraph should be at least five sentences
Not anymore. Short paragraphs are trending, even one sentence paragraphs.
Here’s an example from Bill Hybels’ The Power of a Whisper, p.128.
“…In a flash I imagined everything going horribly wrong.
Three seconds later, “horribly wrong” came to pass.
Henry crashed, the drink spilled onto the message notes, the computer slid off the table and the grandfather nearly came undone.”
Notice the short paragraphs: a one sentence paragraph beginning with “Three seconds” and another starting with “Henry crashed.” In most examples where one sentence paragraphs or very short paragraphs are used, as above, the desired affect is to produce an emphasis or a sense of suddenness.
I’ve enjoyed putting on my English teacher hat today! Any other grammar rules you break or have questions about breaking? Let me know!