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Interactive video lesson plan for: 5 Wrong Grammar Rules Everyone Knows | What the Stuff?!

Activity overview:

Next time you’re nabbed by the grammar police, know your rights! Because chances are those jerks are enforcing a few fake grammar rules that today’s linguists and style manuals don’t support.

10 Wrong Grammar Rules Everyone Knows:
http://people.howstuffworks.com/10-wrong-grammar-rules.htm

What the Stuff?! episodes are available every Monday and Friday at Noon ET.

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Transcript:
Next time you’re nabbed by the grammar police, know your rights! Because chances are those jerks are enforcing a few fake grammar rules that today’s linguists and style manuals don’t support.

No Initial Coordinators! So you’ve probably been told never to begin a sentence with “coordinators” like “and,” “so” or “but.” But this is not just dead wrong; it’s un-dead wrong. Linguist Arnold Zwicky calls “No Initial Coordinators” a “zombie rule”; no matter how many times you shoot this ghoul down, it keeps coming back. Zwicky speculates that the fake rule comes from elementary school teachers fighting against children’s tendency to overuse conjunctions: “And I went to lunch. And I ate tater tots. And then, and then, and then…”

Passive voice. OK, we can all agree that using the passive voice too often is really annoying. “The trout was caught by Alice.” “The gallon of ice cream was eaten by Jeffrey.” Passive voice makes sentences sound like they come from a police blotter, but there’s nothing technically wrong with it. Some writers use passive voice in moderation for effect or to vary sentence structure. It’s not wrong. But yes, it should be used frugally.

Less is fewer. In 1770, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage laid down the law: The word “less” is used to describe an uncountable collection: “less water,” “less respect.” “Fewer” is for countable objects: “fewer blueberries,” “fewer rubber gloves.” But this doesn’t always work. I mean, is it really better to say “The party is fewer than 5 miles away,” or “The plumber says it will take fewer than 2 hours?” If “fewer” makes the sentence clang, don’t feel pressure to use it.

Never end a sentence with a preposition. Some languages actually do ban the terminal preposition, like Classical Latin. And the Anglican bishop Robert Lowth continued this convention in an English grammar guide he published in 1762. But English isn’t Latin, and other linguists have pointed out that it’s perfectly natural to end an English sentence with a preposition. This is one wrong grammar rule up with which I will not put.

Never split an infinitive. Infinitives: The pure, un-conjugated form of a verb. In English, they come pre-packaged with the word “to.” So: “To dig,” “to sneeze,” “to saw”. Splitting is when you stick an adverb in there: “to gleefully saw.” Though high school teachers love to get the red pen out for this one, modern style guides are almost unanimous in saying you should feel free to proudly split infinitives when the sentence calls for it.

What’s your favorite grammar rule to pedantically enforce? Let us know in the comments and subscribe! And check out 10 Wrong Grammar Rules Everyone Knows at HowStuffWorks to learn more!

Tagged under: Grammar (Quotation Subject),HowStuffWorks (Website), stuff,cristen conger,common misconceptions,english grammar,initial coordinators,passive voice, ,prepositions,split infinitives

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