Mighty Red Pen

September 3, 2010

Take these rules and shove them

Filed under: Grammar goddess — mighty red pen @ 4:41 pm

As you know, one of my current interests is this issue of grammar and language myths (and who the heck is perpetuating them?!). Along comes Jan Freeman of Throw Grammar From the Train with a new column in the Boston Globe about this very topic. Only she goes ahead and calls them “fake language rules.” Nice.

And beginners or veterans, these student writers all risk exposure to usage myths — bogus rules of English they may hear, or read, or suddenly discover (via a teacher’s red pen) that they’ve violated.

Fake language rules can come from respected sources, but that’s no reason to believe them. As Kathryn Schulz explains in her new book, “Being Wrong,” people don’t know that they’re misinformed: Being wrong, after all, feels just like being right. But learning to write is hard enough without the burden of following non-rules. So let’s lighten the load a bit, starting with 10 usage topics that deserve a good leaving alone.

Skipping some of the usual suspects (split infinitives, ending with prepositions, etc.), Freeman shares her take on ten “un-rules,” for example, does none take is or are, is it okay to use since to mean because, the difference between healthy and healthfully, and those darned verbed nouns.


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