5 writing rules you can safely ignore

Edicts about splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions can actually hurt your writing.

Do grammar ghosts haunt your office? I’m talking about people who point their fingers at you, shake their heads sadly, and declare your grammar to be so wrong that it’s dead. In fact, they may be the ones who are well south of correct.

Here are five writing rules you can safely ignore.

Ghostly advice No. 1: Don’t split infinitives.

An infinitive is the basic form of a verb—without a tense, but, usually, with the word to in front of it. To edit is an infinitive. Eager-beaver grammarians who insist that adverbs should never tear asunder the to and the verb are preventing you from putting adverbs in the place they belong—right in front of the words they describe.

Take the sentence: She wanted to maliciously edit my story. If you move the maliciously, you change the meaning! By the way, the rule about not splitting infinitives sprang up in the mid-19th century, when Henry Alford in his book “A Plea for the Queen’s English”—misguidedly called it a crime. He was wrong.

Ghostly advice No. 2: Don’t end sentences with prepositions.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.