Nonsense, up with Which I Will Not Put

Galileo jumping in the snowIf you write, you will eventually, inevitably be told you must comply with Stupid Grammar Rules. These aren’t so much rules that are hard to understand or rules you’re not accustomed to following – indeed, many rules in these two categories are Good and Sensible Grammar Rules. Stupid Grammar Rules are archaic relics of outdated English dialects, extending their tentacles via the misguided advice of well-meaning mentors.

One of the most famous of these rules is the notion that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. It is indeed true that you can easily write a godawful sentence with a preposition at the end. It is indeed true that strong sentences tend to end on nouns or adjectives, rather than prepositions and verbs. However, making a hardline rule against it will hamper the flow and cadence of your writing. Indeed, it can even lead you to monstrously awkward work-arounds like the one in the title of this post.

The point of grammar is not to give some shiny crown to the biggest stickler in an online forum, or to shame people who were trained to write in an environment that did not focus on the liberal arts. The point of grammar is to organize (and pretend to somewhat standardize) the English language so that it may be taught and analyzed. Grammar evolves over time. Rules that may have made a lot of sense at one point in time – like the prohibition against prepositions at the end of a sentence – may become completely irrelevant in a matter of decades. Nonetheless, some people will continue to insist that they be enforced, and it is at this point that they become Stupid Grammar Rules.

The only way to identify Stupid Grammar Rules is to study English grammar – and not by looking it up on Wikipedia. Use Google Scholar or another scholarly source to access texts on the current state of English grammar. You’ll find that it’s more interesting than some of your instructors may have made it seem, and you’ll gain some of the knowledge you need to decide which word choices are really the right ones.