Writing Rules to Ignore?


Health Editor’s Note:  So we see that “rules” we were taught to live by in our English classes were not true rules.  That being said, I still use the Oxford comma, you know that one before the and in a list of items.  I have heard that it is no longer necessary or even correct to use that comma.  I plainly do not care…I will still use it……Carol

Bogus Writing Rules

by Richard Nordquist/Thought.co

Any fool can make a rule
And every fool will mind it.

(Henry David Thoreau)

At the start of every semester, I invite my first-year students to recall any rules of writing they learned in school. What they most often remember are proscriptions, many of which involve words that should never be used to begin a sentence.

And every one of those so-called rules is bogus.

Here, according to my students, are the top five words that should never assume first place in a sentence. Each is accompanied by examples and observations that disprove the rule.


  • “Rin Tin Tin grew from being one dog to being a sort of franchise. And as his fame grew, Rin Tin Tin became, in a way, less particular—less specifically this one single dog—and more conceptual, the archetypal dog hero.” (Susan Orlean, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011)
  • Turning to The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1996), we find that the prohibition against and at the start of a sentence “has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues.” Back in 1938, …

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