This week two people who subscribe to my e-newsletter emailed me to question a word I had used to start a sentence. One individual was polite; the other was not.
The polite individual, who works as a field representative for an insurance company, wrote:
It has always been taught to me that a sentence should not begin with "I." Several of your examples break this rule. Can you explain this to me?
Thank you and have a great day.
I wrote to Doug directly, happy to relieve him of the unfortunate "rule" that has contorted his writing. It is perfectly appropriate for him to write "I was always taught" rather than "It has always been taught to me."
Beginning sentences with "I" will help Doug connect with his readers, with sentences such as "I will be handling your claim" and "I will call you when have I the information."
The second individual, whom I will call Mike, did not include anything about himself. His message said only this:
Is your sentence "To stop receiving . . . " grammatically incorrect or is it simply a prime example of poor sentence structure?
This is the sentence to which Mike was referring: "To stop receiving this newsletter, see the simple instructions at the end of this email."
Annoyed by Mike's abruptness and not wanting to spend time composing a reply, I answered his question with one word: "Neither."
I received this response from him:
I was always taught and I taught my university students that using a preposition to start or end a sentence is a very poor idea.
Drat! How frustrating it is to learn of a university instructor who unwittingly spreads misinformation about writing.
Let's set the record straight now: It is completely acceptable to start a sentence with any word, including a preposition.
It is also acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. For more about prepositions at the end of sentences, read my post "Rules From Grade School."
Speaking of first words again, my feature article this month in Better Writing at Work is "How to Write the Opening Sentence." Subscribe for free.
Are you aware of any non-rules we should free writers of? I would love to read them and share them with others here.