Language rules

Subject: Language rules
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 12:18:23 -0500

Speaking as a moderately heretical editor, there are _no_
rules for English, though there're books full of rules of
thumb. These rules of thumb all boil down to either "it
doesn't make much sense in terms of clear communication but
everyone does it anyway and will understand" or "we do it
this way because everyone who speaks English has been
trained to understand this form of communication". If you
can't fit a rule into either category, make darn sure you
understand whether the rule facilitates communication
before you inflict it on your readers.

Grammar has one purpose and one purpose only: to help us
communicate effectively. Where a rule gets in the way of
clear communication, it's almost always because it doesn't
fit in either of the two categories I specified. And to me,
rules that don't fit in either category are generally
optional. There's a lovely book, Miss Thistlebottom's
Hobgoblins (sorry, no details handy), that debunks many of
the more common misunderstandings about English rules, and
it's well worth a read.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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