Rules Vs. Choice. Two kinds of rules. Rules of standard English (subject-verb agreement; sentences have unsubordinated subject and main verb) Invented rules (don’t put a preposition at the end of a sentence). Invented rules. Folklore Elegant options. How do we know it is folklore?.
Rules of standard English (subject-verb agreement; sentences have unsubordinated subject and main verb)
Invented rules (don’t put a preposition at the end of a sentence)
When competent, published writers regularly violate the rule, and when careful readers don’t notice the violation or the non-violation, the rule is meaningless.
As the expenses are minor, we need not discuss them
Since the expenses are minor, we need not discuss them.
Because the expenses are minor, we need not discuss them.
We need not discuss the expenses because they are minor.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Hobgoblin of little minds”
Invented rules that have been enforced with particular zealotry (though they don’t interfere with clarity or grace).
Never use “like” for “as” or “as if”
Don’t use “hopefully” to mean “I hope”
Don’t use “finalize” to mean “finish” or “complete”
Don’t use “impact” as a verb
Don’t modify absolute adjectives like perfect, unique, final, complete (Williams actually thinks this is a good principle)
Never use “irregardless “or “irrespective” (Williams says you have to follow this rule, no matter that it doesn’t make sense, or you will be judged)
What are some of the “rules” you have been taught (or have learned)
Both are invented rules.
A careful reader WILL notice when a writer follows the “invented rules” that are elegant options (though not when the writer violates them).
The reader will sense the extra care the writer has taken.
“to boldly go” vs. “to go boldly”
There are words that we use incorrectly (aggravate for annoy), and the definitions haven’t yet caught up. In 50 years, through constant misuse, the definition for “aggravate” may come to be “annoy,” but the dictionary definition of aggravate still, today, means “to make worse.”
When you get them right, the reader will notice the special care you’ve taken.
Write two sentences for each assigned word. One sentence uses the word correctly. One sentence uses the word incorrectly.
You get no careful writer points for getting these correct and will be dinged for getting them wrong.
Imply vs. infer
Principle vs. principal
Accept vs. except
Capital vs. capitol
Affect vs. effect
Proceed vs. preceed
Discrete vs. discreet