Despite never having been taught anything but the rudiments of grammar at school, I’ve managed to get by over the years with the aid of a writer’s dictionary and a handy little Oxford guide. As a result, I’m fascinated by any discourse on the subject that might increase my profiency (especially in the book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, as the author shares my surname!). So it was interesting to stumble across an article on the Smithsonian website entitled: Most of What You Think You Know About Grammar is Wrong.
Now I’ve edited dozens of book chapters and journal articles and have castigated people for their split infinitives or for starting a sentence with a conjunction (despite regularly doing it in my own prose). But, it seems that most of what we think of as hard an fast rules are nothing of the sort. Instead they are merely throw-backs to the attempts of Latin grammarians to impose Roman rule on the English language:
In Latin, sentences don’t end in prepositions, and an infinitive is one word that can’t be divided. But in a Germanic language like English, as linguists have pointed out, it’s perfectly normal to end a sentence with a preposition and has been since Anglo-Saxon times. And in English, an infinitive is also one word. The “to” is merely a prepositional marker. That’s why it’s so natural to let English adverbs fall where they may, sometimes between “to” and a verb.
I will now make it my mission in future writing to trample upon as many of these archaic rules as possible!