Not long ago I realized I needed to buy a new dictionary. I’d had my beloved, well-worn dictionary for a couple of decades, and our language had changed dramatically in that time. We tend to think of rigid rules—like that ninth grade teacher with a ruler in one hand and a wagging finger on the other who taught grammar as though it were gospel. Well, words change and usage changes, especially today in the Wild West of the Internet.
Here are four “nevers” many of us learned in school that have changed. Now you can fuggetaboutem!
1. Don't start with And or But. Old rules die hard. Lots of us learned that starting sentences with And and But is wrong. No longer true. And you can start with other conjunctions too, such as Or, Yet, etc. This has the effect of adding some punch to your writing.
2. Don’t use contractions. But I just did—and you can too. Contractions are perfect for documents that need a friendly, casual tone. Conversational writing is the voice of the 21st century. Used in moderation, contractions can take the stuffiness out of your writing and make it more approachable.
3. Don't end a sentence with a preposition. Today we can skip convoluted structures such as: "The problem with which I am dealing." Instead, just say it conversationally and let the preposition have the last word: "The problem I'm dealing with." Winston Churchill is famous for his quip to an editor who’d changed all his sentences that ended with a preposition (and ruined the tone of the piece): “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
4. Don't write a one-sentence paragraph. In today's busy world, less is often more. Get to the point quickly and avoid dense documents. If a one-sentence paragraph helps, go for it. Sandwiched between white space, a one-sentence paragraph lightens up the page and catches the eye of skimmers. (And who doesn't skim today?)
What writing rules seem old-fashioned to you? Do you ignore them?