When Breaches of Grammar Are Acceptable

Breaking Rules

This post is for the rebels. Or those who have even the slightest streak of rebellion in them.

Grammar rules were created for a purpose, and you know that I am the first to stick to them, especially if the context requires it. However, I am also the first to deviate from prescribed grammar rules when the situation allows.

If you are a stickler for correct grammar no matter what, I am warning you now: You might not like what you are about to read. On the other hand, if you allow yourself – and others – some flexibility depending on the context, you might agree with some of the points I am about to raise.

Let’s look at two acceptable breaches of grammar.


At some point in my years in school, it was drilled into my head that using contractions in writing is a no-no. I think I followed this rule for the most part – until my university years.

Don’t use contractions. Do not use contractions.

Is either wrong? Not really. It’s a matter of the level of formality you want to convey in your writing.

Sentence beginnings and conjunctions

My high school English teacher would probably want to wring my neck if she were to read my blog posts and online articles today. She was a firm believer in NOT starting a sentence with a conjunction, as your teacher probably was as well.

Is this an unbreakable rule, though? Definitely not! I like the comprehensive explanation presented at the Oxford Dictionaries Blog (the link is now unavailable, unfortunately: blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/01/05/can-i-start-a-sentence-with-a-conjunction/), which basically points out that this issue boils down to a question of style. Additionally, if you’re questioned about this practice, you can whip up this paragraph:

You could also refer to the fact that you’re in very good company (examples can be found in the work of writers such as Susan Sontag, Vladimir Nabokov, Kingsley Amis,P.G. Wodehouse, and Albert Einstein) and that highly respected grammar and usage guides (such as Fowler and Garner) all agree that it’s a perfectly acceptable practice.

What is your take on these two “rules”? Do you think not following them is acceptable in some circumstances? Maybe you have other rules you want to discuss. Let me know!

Image via boffism

First published in December 2012; updated March 2022






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