Today we’re looking at two grammar rules to break. Because today’s writing tends to be more casual (yes, that’s a generalization), these two grammar rules can be broken.
The first rule to break:
Write in complete sentences. Avoid sentence fragments.
A complete sentence includes both a subject and a verb, resulting in a complete thought, such as in the following sentence:
- My dogs Lucy and Stella ran out the front door when they heard another dog barking. They ran away before I could grab them.
The first sentence is complete with subject Lucy and Stella and verb ran. The second sentence is a complete sentence with subject they and verb ran.
A sentence fragment does not include both a subject and a verb. Look at the following:
- My dogs Lucy and Stella darted out the front door when they heard another dog barking. They ran. And ran. And ran. And ran.
Do you see the fragments? The words “And ran” create a fragment. It’s missing the subject.
Why do we break the grammar rule by using sentence fragments? Mainly for emphasis. Each fragment emphasizes that their running went on and on.
Here’s another example from Proverbs 31 Ministries’ author and speaker, Suzie Eller.
So, out we went! I don’t usually equate adventure with mud, but that’s what greeted us. Lots and lots of slippery, thick mud. Mud that sucks your shoes in and won’t let go. Mud that pulls you in up to your knees. Mud that tries to throw you off narrow paths into the cascading water below.
Suzie Eller, blog post, March 29, 2018
Do you see the sentence fragments in the above paragraph? The sentence fragments are the group of words beginning with lots and then each phrase beginning with mud. Dividing the various forms of mud into fragments makes me focus on the distinct aspects of the mud. These fragments work beautifully in this paragraph to create emphasis.
The second rule to break:
Don’t use a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence.
Some common conjunctions are but, and, so, for, or, yet.
The following sentences follow the standard grammar rule to use conjunctions as connecting words.
- I carried my backpack but took out several water bottles because they were too heavy.
- We hiked down the mountain, and then we crossed the creek.
Conjunctions are defined as connectors, so it makes sense to see them used to connect phrases or sentences, as they do in the above examples.
However, most style books agree it’s acceptable to start sentences with conjunctions, despite what you may have learned in the past.
Here are some examples of beginning sentences with a conjunction.
- But he never told me where to find the key!
- And she talked five minutes straight about her love of horseback riding.
- Rachel Hauck is one of my favorite novelists. So I plan to buy her new book immediately.(Note this also could also be written: Rachel Hauck is one of my favorite novelists, so I plan to buy her new book immediately.)
Notice no comma is needed after the conjunction beginning the sentence. And, by the way, I disagree with my computer’s grammar checker that always tells me to put a comma after so (has anyone else been bothered by that?), but that can be up to you about following what your grammar checker tells you.
We find one exception to this no-comma-needed rule when it comes to using so at the beginning of a sentence.
Read the following sample:
- So, what did you think of the movie?
In this sentence so is used as an introductory remark, a practice that has become common in spoken English and now the written word. As an introductory remark, so needs to be followed by a comma.
Give yourself permission to break outdated grammar rules when its appropriate for your writing.
Do you agree or disagree with breaking these grammar rules? I’d like to know!
If you’re unsure of your knowledge of grammar or punctuation rules, I can help you! As a writing coach and editor, I offer affordable services to finetune your writing.
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