You guys loved my last post where I busted five common grammar myths, so today I’m busting five more!
If you want to stay up-to-date in the proofreading world, keep reading to discover which grammar myths you can finally stop believing.
Myth #1: You shouldn’t start a sentence with because
In my last blog post, I shattered the myths you should never start a sentence with however or conjunctions like and, but, so, etc. Now it’s time I busted the myth you can’t start a sentence with because.
Starting a sentence with because is only incorrect if it leads to an incomplete sentence.
Example: Because I was in a rush.
What happened because I was in a rush? We don’t know because the sentence is incomplete.
Because is a subordinating conjunction. It joins two parts of a sentence together. One part of the sentence is independent (the main clause), and the other is dependent (the subordinate clause). The subordinate clause can’t stand alone as a complete sentence.
So how do you use because correctly at the beginning of a sentence?
Let’s look at an example:
Wrong: Because I was in a rush. (sentence fragment)
Better: Because I was in a rush, I made several typos. (sentence beginning with a subordinate clause)
Better: I made several typos because I was in a rush. (sentence ending with a subordinate clause)
Note: If the first part of the sentence is a subordinate clause, add a comma between it and the main clause.
Source: Meme Generator
Myth #2: You shouldn’t write in sentence fragments
Okay, okay! I know I just said the example above was a sentence fragment and it was wrong. But sentence fragments are not always wrong.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the rule that every sentence should have a subject and a verb.
In general, this is sound advice! But people don’t always speak like that, and a lot of web content and books are written how people speak.
Sometimes writers use sentence fragments because they want to be punchy, convey a casual tone, or convey intensity.
Or it’s their style. I’m a writer and I do it!
Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences — fragments of sentences that have gotten separated from the main clause.
“Such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest” is a dependent clause that makes no sense on its own.
Example of a good sentence fragment: “It was a makeshift shooting range. The targets were life-size mannequins. More than two hundred yards away. He pulled the rifle from the backpack confidently. Had it locked and loaded in seconds.” (Extract from Gone Bad by J.B. Turner)
The sentence fragments in that extract build tension and make you want to hear what’s going to happen next.
It would be wise to avoid writing in sentence fragments all the time, but the occasional one can inject some personality into your writing.
Myth #3: You shouldn’t use the singular they
The singular they is a pretty divisive issue…
It can be a great solution for those who want to write clearly and concisely while avoiding gendered language. These days, he is no longer acceptable as gender neutral, but he or she can be too wordy if it appears several times in a piece of writing.
The singular they is not a flash in the pan; it has been in use from at least the sixteenth century. Great writers like William Shakespeare and Jane Austen used it, so why can’t you?
Here is the Chicago Manual of Style’s take on it: “Normally, a singular antecedent requires a singular pronoun. But because he is no longer universally accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of unspecified gender, people commonly (in speech and in informal writing) substitute the third-person-plural pronouns they, them, their, and themselves (or the nonstandard singular themself).”
Here’s an example of how the singular they can help you write more clearly:
Example: When a Proofread Anywhere student passes his or her exam, he or she receives a certificate of completion.
Example: When a Proofread Anywhere student passes their exam, they receive a certificate of completion.
See how clear and concise the second sentence is?
Be aware, you may get some guff for using the singular they. Some people really dislike it; others love it. It would be wise to consider who the audience is before using it in your writing.
Myth #4: The indefinite pronoun none is always singular
None is singular… sometimes. It depends on the meaning. If the intended meaning is “not one” or “no part,” use a singular verb after none.
If the intended meaning is “not any,” use a plural verb after none.
Let’s check these sentences for clues and figure out whether we should use a singular or plural verb with none.
Example #1: None of the delicious birthday cake was eaten.
In example #1, none means “no part,” so you would use the singular verb “was.”
Example #2: None of us want to make typos in our Facebook posts.
In example #2, none means “not any,” so you would use the plural verb “want.”
Myth #5: The abbreviations i.e. and e.g. mean the same thing
Nuh-uh! E.g. and i.e. are both Latin abbreviations, but they mean different things.
E.g. comes from the Latin words exempli gratia and means “for example.” You use it to introduce one or more examples that back up the point you’re trying to make.
Example: I love all kinds of animals (e.g., dogs, cats, and turtles).
I.e. comes from the Latin words id est and means “that is” or “in other words.” You use it to provide a clarifying statement.
Example: I’ll be home for Christmas (i.e., December 25).
Note: Don’t forget to add a comma after e.g. and i.e. when they’re being used functionally in a sentence!
If you’re more of a visual person, check out what this duck has to say. 🦆
A great proofreader must commit to being a lifelong learner. We are ALL works in progress, and despite how old you are and how much experience you have, no one knows it all. When you work with words, things aren’t always black and white. Language changes and you gotta stay on top of these changes!
Bear in mind that the rules some people follow are actually just their pet peeves. If you understand the difference between a rule and a preference, you can defend the grammar choices you make. And if someone claims you’re breaking the rules by ignoring these grammar myths, send them this way. 😊
If you enjoyed busting these grammar myths and want to learn how you can brush up on your grammar skills, check out my free intro to proofreading workshop!
Also, are there any other grammar myths you can debunk? Share with us in the comments below!