Every language has a formula users are meant to abide by. For instance, there are many English grammar rules you need to keep in mind at all times to write “properly”. However, we believe some of them were made to be broken – if you know what you’re doing.
Understanding which guidelines you can bend and when to do so can make for more powerful writing. Playing with grammar shows a command of language that’s compelling for readers. In this article, we’ll go over six rules you shouldn’t be afraid to break every now and then.
Let’s get to it!
Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Break Grammar Rules
Some people pay way too much attention to grammar rules, while others barely mind them at all. As a content creator, you probably tend toward the latter category. If your writing is sloppy, people might not take you seriously, so it makes sense to uphold traditional language structures.
Here’s the thing, though – powerful writing isn’t all about grammar. It’s about stirring emotions in your readers and getting your point across. If you can do both those things, then you can break the rules of English all day long and no one’s going to bat an eye.
In some cases, choosing not to follow standard language guidelines can make your writing more conversational and accessible to readers. If you always use “whom” when referring to a person who is the object of a verb or preposition, you might come across as stuffy and unrelatable.
Plus, the ultimate goal of grammar is to help us communicate effectively. When done purposefully, breaking rules can enable you to convey frustration, excitement, or other emotions more clearly than ‘proper’ English.
6 Grammar Rules Content Creators Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Break
Complete disregard for grammar rules will likely make it impossible for readers to understand your content. However, knowing a few you can get away with breaking will make for more interesting and engaging posts. Here are six you shouldn’t be afraid to ignore now and again.
1. Incorporating Proper Punctuation
Punctuation is no doubt crucial to quality writing. A lack of periods results in confusing blocks of text, apostrophes help us distinguish between plurals and possessives, and without a comma, the phrase “Let’s eat, Grandma!” has much darker connotations.
However, misusing or deliberately withholding punctuation marks can help you get your point across better in some situations. For example, telling someone to eat their vegetables doesn’t have the same impact as saying “Eat. Your. Vegetables.”
The extra periods drive the point home and give the statement an air of seriousness. Similarly, long sentences with little or no punctuation can connote excitement or urgency by speeding along the text without asking the reader to pause between phrases or clauses.
If you want to play around with breaking this rule, try reading your writing aloud. This exercise will enable you to hear the effect your punctuation has on your content’s tone. You can then adapt it to change the way readers perceive your words.
2. Having More Than One Sentence in Each Paragraph
Paragraphs are meant to bundle ideas together and organize your writing. Most agree that you should only jump from one to another when the topic shifts, and that single sentences should never be left to stand on their own.
A one-sentence paragraph barely gives you time to cover a complete thought.
Here’s the thing, though. Standard paragraphs aren’t always the most effective way to convey important information. That’s why marketing and email copy, for example, are often rife with one-sentence lines.
Passing a lone sentence off by itself makes people pay more attention to it. It’s a simple way to emphasize a point, and you’re less likely to run the risk of reaching the end of your readers’ attention spans in the middle of your dense copy.
If you’ve never tried it before, you’re missing out.
3. Never Ending Sentences With a Preposition
Whether it’s alright to end sentences with prepositions or not is a heated argument to find yourself in.
See what we did there?
The rules of grammar say prepositions should always precede the objects they refer to. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to end a sentence with one.
However, if we had written “The rules of grammar say prepositions should always precede the objects to which they refer”, it may have given you pause. While this sentence is more ‘correct’ than the one we used above, it also sounds much more formal than the rest of this post.
Since most people do so naturally when they speak, using prepositions at the ends of sentences often sounds more conversational and normal to readers. Your content will likely come across as more approachable if you follow this rule loosely.
If you’re not writing an academic paper or official document of some sort, there’s no reason to shy away from using prepositions at the end of your sentences. That is, of course, as long as your content still makes sense.
4. Avoiding Split Infinitives
An infinitive is the basic form of a verb before it has been attached to a subject or tense. In English, it usually incorporates the use of “to”, such as:
- To walk
- To cook
Choosing to split infinitives is to boldly go where strict grammarians dare not tread. Doing so involves adding an adverb into the mix, such as in:
- To happily walk
- To diligently cook
As far as English grammar rules go, this one is fairly controversial. We are taught not to split infinitives, but in most cases, doing so doesn’t impact the reading experience much.
We’re not saying you should split infinitives every time you use them. In some cases, it can make for awkward phrases, such as “They agreed to whenever possible avoid breaking grammar rules.” As with any rule, this one is only worth breaking if you do so with purpose.
5. Minimizing Your Use of Contractions
Contractions are some of the most widely used elements in the spoken English language. You wouldn’t likely say more than a few sentences without using one or two, and no one would question you for it.
We are so accustomed to using contractions that when we do not incorporate them in our writing, phrases stand out. Eliminating them from your content may result in your readers tripping over your words.
In some cases, not using a contraction can emphasize your point and make for more powerful prose. However, when it comes to blog posts and other web content, you shouldn’t feel you have to shy away from them completely.
People expect to find more natural and relatable language on the internet, so contractions will work in your favor. Plus, using them regularly will make instances where you include the full word or phrase pack an extra punch.
6. Not Starting Sentences With Conjunctions
Conjunctions are connecting words used to join two clauses into a single sentence or many words into a list. They can’t do that if you lead with them, however.
Usually, starting a sentence with a conjunction can sound a bit awkward. However, it happens quite frequently when we’re talking out loud. People launch into explanations or stories with “and”, “but”, or “so”, all the time. Doing the same in your writing can help it sound more natural.
Additionally, beginning with a conjunction can highlight important phrases. Your point may be lost in the middle of a long compound sentence. But readers are sure to see it if you set it apart all on its own.
There’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction every now and then. Just be careful not to overdo it, because then you may cross the line from grammatical wordplay over into bad writing.
Language is a beautiful thing that’s meant to be played with. Grammar rules can help you write content that’s easy to understand and looks professional. However, if you never bend the rules even a little bit, you may find you have a hard time connecting with readers.
The next time you’re working on an article, an e-book, a tutorial, or whatever else you like to write, remember you shouldn’t be afraid to break some grammar rules, including:
- Incorporating proper punctuation.
- Having more than one sentence in each paragraph
- Never ending sentences with a preposition.
- Avoiding split infinitives.
- Minimizing your contraction usage.
- Not starting sentences with conjunctions.
Do you have any questions about English grammar you’d like to run by us? Do so in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by Jiw Ingka / shutterstock.com
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