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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?.

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Two kinds of rules
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
Invented rules


Elegant options

How do we know it is folklore
How do we know it is folklore?

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.


  • Don’t begin a sentence with “and” or “but”

    • Inexperienced writers rely too heavily on “and” as a transition, but that doesn’t make “and” incorrect

    • Don’t begin a sentence with “because.”

    • Taught to students to help them avoid sentence fragments

    • Williams says he tends to follow this rule even though because is not incorrect

More folklore
More folklore

  • Distinction between “that” and “which”

    • Note that Williams says he does follow this rule but not because of correctness but because of style.

    • Note that Williams says he breaks this rule when it sounds better to do so.

Which one s does williams think best better why any incorrect
Which one(s) does Williams think best/better? Why? Any incorrect?

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.

More folklore1
More Folklore

  • Fewer and less

  • Don’t use since for to mean because

    • Notice Williams thinks since is a better choice than because at beginning of sentence

    • He does note that “since” can be “weak” at end of sentence

    • In an earlier edition he writes that “as” for causation is weak and we should use “since” instead.


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)

More folklore2
More Folklore

What are some of the “rules” you have been taught (or have learned)

Folklore vs elegant options
Folklore vs. Elegant options

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.

Elegant options
Elegant Options

  • Don’t split infinitives

    “to boldly go” vs. “to go boldly”

  • Use whom for object of preposition

    • “Who do I give the letter to?” vs. “To whom do I give the letter.”

  • Don’t end a sentence with a preposition

    • See above.

  • Use a singular verb with none and any.

    • “Any are fine.” vs. “Any is fine.”

Words to get right pg 21 22
Words to get right (pg 21-22)

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 tuesday s quiz
Write Tuesday’s quiz

Write two sentences for each assigned word. One sentence uses the word correctly. One sentence uses the word incorrectly.

Common mistaken words
Common mistaken words

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