Tuesday: Preposition Rules to Break

Rules to Break

“This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

 Winston Churchill

You’ve heard of this rule, right? Don’t end a sentence with a preposition! Well depending on your style, you might want to think of it as only a guideline. Naysayers can quote this book or that, but don’t hold fast to something that might make a particularly fine sentence look confused. Sometimes, for the good of the work, there’s just no way around ending a sentence with a preposition.

There’s a particularly in-depth article by Geoffrey K. Pullum about the quotation above concerning the rule of prepositions paired with an object and those without. Also, there are claims that the “bloody nonsense” comment was misappropriated, but what evidence is there to back that up with?

Prepositions are great. Professors or Grammarphiles might hiss at you, but just smile and say, “What are you lookin’ at?”

Disclaimer: Don’t ever pair “at” with “where,” because it’s redundant. “Where are you?” says it all. “Where are you at?” says more than you would like to think.

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Rule #1

[W]hen a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter.” -E. B. White

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it, and the writing will be just as it should be.” -Mark Twain

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining–show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov

Though each quote says something different, they’re all saying essentially the same thing: Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story. This is my Rule One; most writing rules can fit under its banner.

When meeting fellow writers, editors, or Grammarphiles, ask what their one defining rule is. You’ll put them on the spot (so rude), but usually the awkwardness is worth suffering through. I’m especially keen on finding rules that cannot fit under Rule One; I have yet to really find any, but I’ll be very excited when I do!

What is your one defining rule? If you think through your editing process, I’m sure you’ll find it. Does it fit under Rule One?