Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Garner's work is never done

From Garner: "It is rank superstition that [and] cannot properly begin a sentence. . . . Schoolteachers may have laid down a prohibition against the initial and to counteract elementary-school students' tendency to begin every sentence with and. As Follett and Amis point out, the same superstition has plagued but. The very best writers find occasion to begin sentences with and . . . ." Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage 44 (2003). He similarly offers, "Like And and But, So is a good word for beginning a sentence." Id. at 733. And he observes, "There's an odd myth that it's poor grammar to begin a sentence with because. . . . [T]he 'rule' has never had any basis in grammar, and good writers often have occasion to put the cause before the effect . . . ." Id. at 89.

From my second grader's homework instructions tonight: "Remember that sentences do not begin with the words and, so, but, because and to." To err is human . . . .

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

And Mr. Garner makes it clear what is the appropriate pronunciation of "err."

Anonymous said...

And I thought these grammar rules were set in stone. But rules are not so inflexible after all. So now what do we do? Because there are so many possibilities for us writers. To the presses!

Anonymous said...

Fortunately for us, the military doesn't tolerate such progressive gobblygook as beginning sentences with conjunctions or writing in the active voice! Efficiencies and primacy are obtained by flexible synergy and redundant verbal asset interchangablity such as that/which, who/whom, and affect/effect.

Anonymous said...

Because no one was looking, they passed a bailout bill with a slush fund for ACORN. And now our mortgages fund a left wing organization that robs people of their vote. So you're worried about grammar?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the OJAG code that deals with transformation should examine this.

Anonymous said...

So what makes you think that Garner is right and everybody else who teaches children grammar and composition is wrong?

Anonymous said...

Because anyone who reads good literature, or even the King James Bible, immediately know that Garner is right. But if Garner's chops aren't enough, one might also consider other giants of writing like E.B. White, William Strunk, Kingsley Amis, Olliver Wendell Holmes, Earnest Hemingway, William Zinser, etc.

Learning to write well is a life-long process. Some people are farther along; they've worked harder. But a sure sign of a poorly developed writer is one that clings desperately to what he or she thinks they learned in middle school.

Lawyers are supposed to be professional writers. So say a prayer for that poor pettifogger who has failed to learn the most basic skills of his or her trade.

Fakirs Canada said...

A physics teacher once told me that one has to learn the rules before one can safely break them. I can imagine what my nine-year-old's compositions would look like, were it not for the "no starting with "And et al rule."