I’m not a pompous grammar know-it-all. I question my grammar every time I write (and I’m especially self-conscious about it now). There are always more things to learn because even grammar has trends and is subject to change. While doing a little research for this post, I came across several rules I didn’t know. I’m sure there will even be a mistake or two in this post about grammar. Despite my grammatical insecurities, I love grammar. A polished, grammatically perfect essay is beautiful. It gives the writer immense credibility and a grammatically sound essay or article is much more pleasant to read.
There is one piece of punctuation in particular that really has my heart. This is the semicolon.
The semicolon is largely misunderstood by most common folk and exceedingly unloved by grammarians. The grammar expert, Ben Yagoda, says “Semicolons should be used rarely, if at all… When you feel like using a semicolon, lie down till the urge goes away.”
Semicolons are handy for those of us who like to write really long sentences. You can pop a semicolon in between two related, independent clauses and you have a coherent flow of ideas (assuming your word choice is appropriate). The semicolon holds the sentences closer together than a period, emphasizing their relatedness and connecting them in one thorough thought. It also serves to add a little creativity and punctuational spunk to your writing. Don’t let the semicolon continue to get shafted; try it out yourself!
There is one grammar rule that I don’t hate but I hate when people break it. Never start a sentence with “and” or “but.” I was taught this sometime in elementary school and for some reason it really stuck. I mean really stuck. Some grammarians today say it is fine to do this in relatively informal writing. I cringe whenever I see it. I have tried to get over it and start a sentence with “but” but I can’t do it. An alarm goes off in my head, I feel nauseous, and I have to delete it immediately.
As much as I love grammar and structure, I also understand that sometimes it hinders good writing. There is a time and a place for perfect grammar but many occasions to break grammar rule artfully. I’m still working on letting myself break a few.