Non-Errors in the English Language (Part 1)


There is no denying that we all have our pet peeves when it comes to the English language. There are certain words, phrases, and usages that we simply cannot stand. Sometimes, these pet peeves are valid – when the “mistakes” are really incorrect. There are many instances, however, when certain usages may actually be correct, contrary to popular opinion.

These things are what we call “non-errors” – in spite of what many people may say, they are grammatically sound. In this post – and the next few posts – I am going to take a look at some of these non-errors. It would also be great to hear what you have to say about them.

Split Infinitives

As you may have experienced in the past, splitting an infinitive may very well result in splitting hairs with even your closest friend. There is the prevailing notion that a rule against splitting infinitives exist and that this rule is carved in stone. Here’s something that may reassure you (if you tend to split your infinitives): there is no “real” rule. However, the practice of not splitting infinitives has been so ingrained in some people that they will fight tooth and nail to assert their position. For those who have no qualms about using split infinitives when necessary – go ahead. You are not making a grammar mistake.

In case this point still gives you headaches in the future, get your hands on the cure below. ((Whether “spilt” was meant or not – you tell me!)) 😉

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Another controversial “rule” dictates that sentences should never end with a preposition. I’ll let Jack Lynch’s argument sway you. ((Lynch’s Guide))

Whatever the merit of the rule — and both historically and logically, there’s not much — there’s a substantial body of opinion against end-of-sentence prepositions; if you want to keep the crusty old-timers happy, try to avoid ending written sentences (and clauses) with prepositions, such as to, with, from, at, and in. Instead of writing “The topics we want to write on,” where the preposition on ends the clause, consider “The topics on which we want to write.” Prepositions should usually go before (pre-position) the words they modify.

As far as I am concerned, the example that he provides makes the case for ending a sentence with a preposition.

How about you? As freelance writers, what is your stand on splitting infinitives and ending a sentence with a preposition?

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2 responses
  1. Eugene Carney Avatar
    Eugene Carney

    Concerning ending with a preposition:
    I would agree with your example of “write on” where “on” is unneeded. There are some instances where a preposition has to be used or you end up with a stilted and an out of kilter sentence.
    Two major languages met with a cataclysmic collision-English and Latin. Neither one has truly won the day. Thankfully, it wasn’t worse.
    Latin syntax permits the ending with a preposition while English grumbles it’s a strict no-no.
    Relax, there aren’t any. Well, maybe two minor ones. Can the sentence be re-written and does the sentence grate on the ear? If you can’t re-write it and it sounds “right”, you’re on fairly safe ground. The jury is still out.

  2. Rose Forrest (Ettelman) Avatar
    Rose Forrest (Ettelman)

    I am a proof reader

    I am a proof reader! May I help you?

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