There are Already Enough Rules

There’s no need to make up more!

It’s difficult sometimes to walk the line between being an editor and a lover of language. I’m the first person to get annoyed by some habits: Saying “whenever I went to the store” when you are talking about a specific grocery trip, or saying “I’m not bias.” There are rules, people! But I also appreciate the evolution of language and its rules. The dynamic nature of human language is what allows it to work.

Today, though, is one of those days where I want to shout. You don’t get to make up rules that don’t actually describe how the language works!


Once again, I have been told that I simply cannot start a sentence with and or but.

For those who may not know: This is not an actual rule in the English language. As a writer and editor, it’s my job to make sure the documents under my purview are following the prescribed standards of the language. This one is a complete myth, right up there with “No split infinitives,” and “Never use a preposition at the end of a sentence.” (Though, if you really want to replace, “Where are you from?” with “Whence do you hail?” more power to you.*)


Image via

Yes, I do understand that the and/but rule may be a requirement under some style guides, but that’s a rule of the style, not the language. You can put it in your blog post. It’s going to be okay. I promise.

I understand where these misconceptions come from – Early modern linguists trying to apply French and Latin rules to English, which, while heavily influenced by those languages, is Germanic; Guidelines to prevent bad writing taken too far and called rules; Retention of old rules that have been changed. What I don’t understand is why they persist. Surely English teachers are required to have degrees in English. Do we never address these correctly in the classroom, at any level**?

Here’s a Wikipedia list of some common misconceptions about the English language. I’m very torn right now between being very interested in where they come from and annoyed that they continue to exist. Now that I’ve gotten the rant out of my system, I’m going to keep reading for entertainment and try to let it go.

But please, feel free to use this Wikipedia article to correct the people who correct you!

*Tragically, this is another instance where my inner linguist, who loves the evolution of language, gets crushed by my inner grammarian. “From whence do you hail” is redundant, because whence means from where. Therefore, it’s just WRONG. Don’t do it!

**I guess not. In doing a bit of research for this post, I Googled “no split infinitives” and found a disturbing number of teaching materials telling students to NEVER EVER EVER split them.

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