Wordplay is a blog project featuring posts from students enrolled in ENG 320 Grammar and Linguistics (Fall 2019)

“Rules” of Grammar

by Riley Hall

When you hear the word “grammar” you probably think of time consuming lessons from elementary school or trying to memorize the “rules” of grammar that past teachers lived by. These rules can build up to be a confusing mess of guidelines to remember when speaking or writing whether it is formal or informal. Throughout this course, I have learned that while grammar is incredibly important, and we should do our best to promote correct grammar usage, I have also learned that there are some rules that we can learn to ignore.

When I say grammar rules, I am referring to the ideas such as “Always use an active voice”, or “Use a comma to connect two ideas” (“YourDictionary,” 2016). While these rules are very common and typically understood, there are ideas that we learn throughout grammar classes that may not be as important. Formal speaking and writing are held to a much higher standard and should never contain grammatical errors; however, there are some outdated grammar rules that can be ignored most of the time.                                              

First, we learn to never begin a sentence with a conjunction. Conjunctions include “and”, “but”, and “or” and are typically used to connect two or more clauses or phrases. We are commonly told to never start a sentence with any of these words because they create an unclear or incomplete sentence. However, we know that sentences are complete if they include a subject and a predicate. For this reason, starting a sentence with a conjunction is not an error that we should be worried about, if it is not used too often (VOA, 2018).

Another example of a grammar rule that is often broken is “never end a sentence with a preposition.” This rule was created because prepositions are typically used to describe the relationship between words, and if it is at the end of the sentence, there is nothing to connect the prior word to. However, if we rearrange sentences to avoid making this error, we typically see that the sentence is much wordier and oftentimes unclear. It is very common to end a sentence with a preposition, and it is typically acceptable when speaking or writing in an informal setting (Geikhman, 2018).

There are many other rules out there that might be more of a judgement call than a set-in-stone situation, and our opinions on them will make a huge impact on how and what we decide to teach our students. For the most part, I will teach my students the well-known grammar rules and what they need to know about grammar to be successful. However, I will also educate them on the difference between formal and informal speaking and writing, so they understand when those rules must be followed, and when they can focus more on expressing themselves.


Geikhman, Y. (2018, December 3). Informal English: 10 Grammar Rules That Native Speakers Break All the Time! Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.fluentu.com/blog/english/informal-english/.

Voa. (2018, October 4). Old Grammar Rules You Can Break. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/it-s-time-to-break-these-old-grammar-rules/4598241.html.

YourDictionary. (2016, October 21). 11 Rules of Grammar. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/11-rules-of-grammar.html.

Picture from https://www.glasbergen.com/education-cartoons/language-grammar/

Riley Hall, is a junior studying Elementary Education at Chadron State College. Once she completes her degree, she hopes to teach at the intermediate level somewhere in Western Nebraska.

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