English language rules and why they can/should/must be broken (sometimes)

This is the worst title in the history of blog post titles ever constructed by a blogger. Thank you, I’ll take that award now. 😜

Just ignore my mental state, it’s the end of the school year (in a few weeks) and I’m literally limping toward not only a kid graduating from elementary school forever and ever (YAY!) but also toward a big trip for which I have planned almost nothing yet.

Then I left the poor, skittish guinea pigs outside in their outdoor pen by accident and went to bed at 8 pm with a book.

Naturally at 2 am when I woke up, I panicked. I ran outside and lifted the lid of their pen and…they were gone. GONE!

So I ran back inside, turned on all the lights to the basement (which I’m sure pleased the sleeping family members), and checked their indoor cage. No pigs.


Until I looked closer and in the back corner…they were there, hiding and giving me the evil eye (rightfully so). The girl child must have seen the empty cage after practice while detouring toward them on her way to bed at godknowswhensheturnsin, and brought them in.


Anyway. The book I was reading was awesome even though I just started it. It’s called:

Dryer’s English

An utterly correct guide to clarity and style

by Benjamin Dreyer


This man is my new-found hero. ❀

Basically he suggests we can, and should, break all the English grammar rules we have learned in school. Unless we can’t or shouldn’t.


His writing style is so conversational, you’ll absolutely forget immediately that technically you’re reading a guide to English grammar.

But he’s so funny. I was instantly captivated. His observances remind me a little bit of Bill Bryson…and he draws you in as if you’re a long lost friend meeting at a coffee shop to have a chat.

One such example of his style of humour is the mention of two members of the Rolling Stones. Remember, this book is a GRAMMAR GUIDE so that was completely unexpected.Β  πŸ™‚

Here’s the excerpt on the topic of The Great Nonrules of the English Language:

Why are they nonrules? So far as I’m concerned, because they’re largely unhelpful, pointlessly constricting, feckless, and useless.

Ha! I mean, the man is a copy editor who works for some fancy schmancy publishing house and he’s using words like feckless and useless!

He went on to say more:

Also because they’re generally of dubious origin: devised out of thin air, then passed on till they’ve gained respectable solidity and, ultimately, have ossified.

Ossified. Hahaha! I mean…this guy is brilliant!

He went further and wrote a loooooong sentence referencing our favorite Stones:

Language experts far more expert than I have, over the years, done their best to debunk them, yet these made-up strictures refuse to go away and have proven more durable than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Put together.

OMG. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Before he launched into the nonrules topic though, he talked briefly about a challenge he’s recommending all writers to take part in, for one week. He says to eliminate the following words from everything you write for the next seven days:

  • very
  • rather
  • really
  • quite
  • in fact
  • just
  • so
  • pretty (not to describe something or someone, but to say ‘pretty tedious’)
  • of course
  • surely
  • that said
  • actually

On the last one he recommends to “feel free to go the rest of your life without another actually“. πŸ™ƒ

I can’t wait to keep reading this guy, but I’ll stop here for now. Don’t worry, I’ll be referencing him again!

So there you go. A little bit of humour for you on this lovely, summery Friday which, incidentally, is a PA day (no school) AND, the men folk are out of town so it’s just me and the girl child (and the pigs). Ha.


29 thoughts on “English language rules and why they can/should/must be broken (sometimes)

  1. Surely that’s actually very difficult – not using those words lol. I often find if I read back through a blog post, I delete words all over the place. Of course the big problem there is I rarely read back through anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With my first book, my editor did tell me to remove all adverbs. It was a task, but it does make writing that much more clean. I still use “in fact” in blogging though. Another tip was to use “the” a lot less.


    1. I think the rules for blogging are a little bit looser…I know I don’t adhere to all the grammar or spelling rules in this blog, but it’s just different. More ‘talking’ rather than ‘writing’ in some instances, maybe… I don’t know. But it’s still something to keep in mind.

      How did you feel when the first edits came in when you first started publishing books? The author does say that many writers are very ‘stuck’ on their ways and some of them resist any change even if it’s for the better…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was open to the edits because I figured this person knows more than I do (or should since I’m paying them) so I did everything she suggested and it did make the writing a lot tighter.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this! Can’t wait to read the book. I agree about trying to minimize use of those words. When I was in journalism school years ago, we were taught to be brief, but clear and to the point. Economy of words. It’s a good practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol

      If you read the whole chapter on that you’ll see what he means better. Technically he says there are the words that get crossed most often because the sentences sound cleaner, better, without them. Still, it’s interesting to be aware, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds a captivating book Claudette. I’m fascinated with the topic of creative writing also the correct use of grammar I guess because I’ve been ‘writing’ (lol?) for over a year now. I’ll add one extra illimitation word to your list, I CONCIOUSLY DELIBERATELY try to avoid using the word ‘it’ and ‘it’s, they’re HORRIBLE undescriptive and LAZY words used where an adjective works so much better.

    Here’s a fab anecdote I happened across recently and apparently a TRUE story, anyways (it lol) made me laugh at how intelligent thinking stops the ignorant person in his? Tracks.

    The words ‘NIGGER’S OUT’ were once sprayed across a large expanse of virgin wall to which someone later had written ‘NIGGER’S OUT (but he’ll return after he’s had is tea)’. Don’t you think that’s priceless incisive and very very funny?

    Great Post Claudette I WANT to read more and I doubt the author will mind.


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