When it comes to writing, how many of us remember the grammar rules that we were taught at school? The English grammar rules were instilled in us, as we were led to believe that these were a vital part of acceptable writing. To go beyond acceptable, we were told that for our writing to be compelling, these grammar rules were a must. However, just how true is this today?
When you explore the internet and take a look at the various blogs and other content, it soon becomes clear that many content creators and copywriters simply aren’t following English grammar rules. Does this mean that they’re poor at their job, or is there a reason for this? As you read on, that’s just what we’re going to explore.
Before we jump in, it’s worth bearing something in mind: creating compelling copy and content requires a different skill set than that used for an academic paper or a business proposal. As we explore the grammar rules that are made to be broken, just remember your target audience.
A Summary of English Grammar Rules That Are There for Breaking
Before we look at the details, of just why you should be breaking certain grammar rules, here’s an overview of the ones that we’ll be looking at:
- You can’t end a sentence with a preposition.
- Never start a sentence with a conjunction.
- Don’t split infinitives.
- Avoid personal pronouns.
- Don’t use contractions.
- Avoid all slang.
- Always use ‘An’ before a noun that starts with a vowel.
- One-sentence paragraphs are a big no.
- You must always use pronoun-subject agreement.
- How to use ‘Whom’.
Rule 1: You Can’t End a Sentence with a Preposition
This is one of those English grammar rules that appears to make little sense. In fact, where people avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, what you’re left with is one that is overly complicated, and somewhat clunky. It leads to writers trying to rearrange their words in a way that is far from natural. If, as a copywriter or content creator, you’re aiming for clarity and readability then you certainly should be ending sentences with prepositions. You may be wondering, “ Can I start a sentence with a preposition?”. The simple answer here is, “Yes”. Whether you want to start a sentence with a preposition or end one, just do what reads naturally and flows.
Examples of Sentences That End with a Preposition
- The cat peeked cautiously out from behind the curtain.
- My Mum tucked me in, whispering stories until I drifted to sleep.
- Lost in thought, the writer scribbled notes across the crumbled paper.
- The climbers reached the top, gazing out at the world stretched below them.
- The aroma of freshly baked bread hung in the air, calling me to the kitchen.
Rule 2: Never Start a Sentence with a Conjunction
So, we know that we can start a sentence with a preposition, but what about a conjunction? Well, grammar rules tell us that this is something that shouldn’t be done, but this is another of those rules that are made to be broken. If you’re looking to grab the attention of your reader, starting a sentence with a conjunction is the way to go. That means, somewhat surprisingly, the answer to “Can I start a sentence with and?”, is a resounding yes. While English grammar rules will tell you that you can’t a sentence with either an “And” or a “But”, the reality is that doing this adds to your writing and hooks your reader.
Examples of Starting a Sentence with Conjunctions
- For rain lashed the streets, she donned her boots and embraced the downpour.
- And laughter filled the room as friends gathered to celebrate.
- Nor a whisper did she hear, leaving the silence deafening.
- But a glimmer of hope remained, guiding her through the darkness.
- Or dance under the stars or curl up with a book – the choice was hers.
- Yet doubt lingered, a shadow she couldn’t quite shake.
- So, she set her sights on the horizon, determined to forge her own path.
Rule 3: Don’t Split Infinitives
When it comes to English grammar rules, this is perhaps the most famous to be broken. Remember a certain sci-fi show that starts with “To Boldly Go”? The truth is that “To Go Boldy” just doesn’t sound quite as good! That’s why it’s more than okay to split infinitives: it can simply make your writing read/sound even better.
Examples of Sentences with Split Infinitives
- To fully grasp the novel’s complexity, I reread it twice, savouring each nuanced phrase. (Split infinitive: “fully grasp”)
- The sculptor longed to boldly break the traditional mould, crafting a truly groundbreaking piece. (Split infinitive: “boldly break”)
- Hesitantly, she decided to quietly step into the unknown, leaving behind the familiar comfort of certainty. (Split infinitive: “quietly step”)
- Driven by a burning desire to truly understand the universe, the astronomer spent countless nights peering into the vastness of space. (Split infinitive: “truly understand”)
- He promised himself to never again forget the lessons learned through hardship, a vow etched into his soul. (Split infinitive: “never again forget”)
Rule 4: Avoid Personal Pronouns
As grammar rules go, this one makes less sense than not being able to start a sentence with a preposition or the word ‘And’. At school, we were always guided away from using personal pronouns. Rather than writing the likes of “I feel,” or “I believe,”, we were told to stick to the facts. Yes, writing copy needs to be factual, but this is a different style of writing from your school days. The use of personal pronouns allows your readers to feel as if they’re getting to know you. It also makes your writing that much more engaging.
Examples of Sentences with Personal Pronouns
- I woke up to the sun streaming through the window, birds chirping outside, and my cat purring on my chest. Time for a perfect morning!
- Second Person: You walked into the bustling marketplace, greeted by a cacophony of sounds and smells. Freshly baked bread, vibrant spices, and excited chatter filled the air. What treasures would you find today?
- Third Person (Singular): She sat by the lake, lost in a book, completely oblivious to the world around her. The rippling water and gentle breeze seemed to whisper secrets only she could hear.
- Third Person (Plural): They celebrated their victory with laughter, cheers, and high fives. The long hours of practice and tireless effort had finally paid off, and they couldn’t be prouder.
Rule 5: Don’t Use Contractions
English grammar rules tell us to avoid contractions, but why? Okay, if you’re writing something a little formal then you want to limit their use but, if you’re writing online and actually want to sound like human, contractions are more than acceptable. In fact, they’re a must. If you insist on following grammar rules like this one, you can be sure of sounding robotic and outdated.
Examples of Sentences with Contractions
- I’m heading out for coffee, want to join? (I am)
- They’re playing basketball in the park this afternoon. (They are)
- I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the rainbow. (could not)
- Don’t forget to water the plants before you leave. (do not)
- We haven’t seen you in ages, how have you been? (have not)
- It isn’t raining anymore, so let’s take a walk. (is not)
Rule 6: Avoid All Slang
This is one of those grammar rules that may be worth paying attention to at times. An academic paper, a business proposal or research is likely to reflect a lack of professionalism if it’s full of slang. However, what about when you’re targeting Gen Z? What about when you’re targeting a particular niche that’s full of slang terms? Take surfing as an example. If you try and resonate with an audience here, you’re going to struggle if you don’t know the lingo and, yes, that means using slang. Even your headlines may need to involve slang to get the clicks that you’re seeking. However, as with breaking all grammar rules, there are limits here so be sure not to be excessive.
Rule 7: Always use ‘An’ Before a Noun That Starts with a Vowel
No doubt you can remember this grammar rule from your days at school. It was always the case that the word ‘An had to be used if a word starting with a vowel followed. The thing is, the majority of us never really stopped to ask why. Think of some obvious examples: an hour, an eventful evening, an ant. Now, try replacing the ‘an’ with ‘a’. The thing is, all ‘an’ does is make it easier to say and roll off the tongue. This rule is more about how something sounds than about being rigid. When choosing between ‘and’ and ‘a’, simply say your sentence out loud and go with what sounds the most natural.
Rule 8: One Sentence Paragraphs are a Big No
English grammar rules tell us that a one-sentence paragraph is some sort of a sin. However, as we have seen, these grammar rules are not always what they seem. Okay, if you’re compiling an essay you may want to consider this in a little more depth but, when we’re looking at creating compelling blogs and copy a one-sentence paragraph can be a great tool. Why? Well, a one-sentence paragraph can be read quickly and easily digested. It stands out and it allows your reader to easily skim without losing interest. In short, you’re safe to ignore the rule that tells you to steer clear of one-sentence paragraphs.
Rule 9: You Must Always Use Pronoun-Subject Agreement
If you thought the question, “Can I start a sentence with and?” had the potential to be confusing, then this one goes a step further. This one all stems from the feeling of exclusion created by using ‘he’ as an assumed gender in writing. An example here would be the sentence, “Everybody should take his coat”. Here, the male pronoun is used/assumed because the word ‘coat’ needs a singular to follow grammar rules. As people have become more vocal, it is now acceptable to ignore this. It is now perfectly okay to use the sentence “Everybody should take their coat”. By using ‘their’, ‘coat’ should become ‘coats’, but by using their/they/them as inclusive language, the rule can be ignored.
Examples of sentences ignoring the pronoun-subject agreement
- Singular subject, singular pronoun: The cat chased its tail playfully across the living room. (Both “cat” and “its” are singular.)
- Plural subject, plural pronoun: The students completed their assignments on time. (“Students” and “assignments” are both plural.)
- Compound subject with “and,” plural pronoun: Mary and John shared their lunch with each other. (“Mary and John” together form a plural subject, so the pronoun is “their.”)
- Compound subject with “or/nor,” pronoun agrees with closer subject: Neither the teacher nor the students wanted to cancel the field trip. (“Students” is closer to the pronoun, so it takes the plural form “wanted.”)
- Collective noun singular or plural depending on meaning: The committee is meeting today to discuss the new proposals. (“Committee” can be singular or plural depending on whether it’s acting as a single unit or individual members. Here, “meeting” indicates a single action, so the pronoun is singular.)
Rule 10: How to Use ‘Whom’
Right, when it comes to grammar rules this one is short and sweet. The truth is that it simply doesn’t matter. Unless you wanted to sound extremely dated, or pretentious, there is no need to use the word ‘whom’. Using ‘who’ is more than acceptable.
When it comes to creating outstanding content for the online space, there are a host of grammar rules that are just begging to be broken. Of course, you don’t want to be breaking the wrong ones: doing so could make you look lazy, uneducated or unprofessional. At Content Conga, we know just what readers are seeking so why not get in touch and let us take care of all of your content and copy needs?