Home 9 Writing 9 The House of Grammar: Faux Phobias Regarding Endings and Beginnings —Part 2

The House of Grammar: Faux Phobias Regarding Endings and Beginnings —Part 2

by | Mar 7, 2013 | Writing | 2 comments


Scary stories typically have an opening hook that scares a person right off the bat; shocking them, making their heart beat faster and ensuring that their attention is captured.  Likewise, many scary stories also have a terrifying ending, the mystery either gets solved with incredible bravado or a cliffhanger is presented.  The House of Grammar is no different, and from the time you enter into its twisting and turning hallways, you’re liable to witness carnage piling up.  Don’t be surprised if you find some long-dead grammar corpse rotting somewhere.  Simply follow your nose and there is no doubt you are likely to run into the following tombstones somewhere on the House of Grammar’s property.

Grammar Tombstone: Terrifying Beginnings

R.I.P. Rule: Don’t start a sentence with and or but.

No doubt many English students have questioned their teachers demanding…pleading…why, why, why is this not allowed?  And no doubt (eek!  Just did it!) their English teachers have insisted that an and or a but should only be employed when connecting elements within a sentence.  But really, (The horror! Did it again!) this is just a modern grammar phobia teachers have instilled in the hearts and minds of impressionable youth for no other reason than the fact that they could say it is a rule.  Rather, it has been a point of common practice with both of these words for centuries and the use of and or but as the first word of a sentence was first noted in 10th century texts.  However, just don’t overdo it as it can make your writing monotonous and boring to read.

Grammar Tombstone: Heart-Stopping Endings

R.I.P. Rule: Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.

Throughout history, many rules regarding right and wrong have been handed down by the clergy and, ultimately, here’s a rule that was delivered by the pulpit too. (I’m not kidding!) When the English clergy wasn’t busy in the 18th century delivering their recommendations on what sick person to bleed and accusing women of being witches, they were also delivering their edicts on proper grammar.  Robert Lowth, a Bishop of the Church of England and an Oxford Professor of Poetry, is credited with writing the first grammar book where it is noted that using a preposition (at, by, for, into, off, on, out, over, to, under, up, with) at the end of a sentence is a language offense.  Of course, great literature created by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton breaks this rule often, but then again, those three authors came before Lowth’s time and maybe he created this rule because Geoff, Will and John were so talented at offending the church.  However, Lowth might have just been referencing Latin grammar rules since “preposition” means “position before.”  Lowth might have simply interpreted this to mean that those words should not come last.  No matter his motivation, this is a rule that can be cast away and buried.

So as you can see, from beginning to end, there is nothing to fear in this wing of the House of Grammar.  I can report that these grammar ghosts have been successfully exorcised and banished to the ether.

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