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Rules from Grade School

In a meeting yesterday, a potential new client said, "It drives me nuts when I see a sentence that ends with a preposition."

It was another case of anxiety brought on by a misunderstood grammar rule, with the damage no doubt done by an excellent, well-meaning, beautiful elementary school teacher.

But here’s the antidote: It is okay to end a sentence with a preposition. If that’s shocking to you, please repeat this sentence three times: It is perfectly okay to end a sentence with a preposition.

Yes, ending a sentence with a preposition is okay. But ending a sentence without one is more formal.


–Type the name for which you want to search.  (formal)
–Type the name you want to search for. (less formal)

–With which preposition does this sentence end? (formal)
–Which preposition does this sentence end with? (less formal)

So the solution is this: If you need to sound formal in a particular document, avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

Note: Some prepositions at the end of a sentence are wrong because they are redundant:

–What time is the meeting at? (wrong)
–What time is the meeting? (correct)

–Where are you going to? (wrong)
–Where are you going? (correct)

But no prepositions at the end of a sentence? I’m with Winston Churchill, who reportedly remarked, "That is a rule up with which I will not put!"

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

2 comments on “Rules from Grade School”

  • Jeanne, I think the word “wanna” tells us the writer isn’t concerned about correct usage! Even so, it should be “Wanna come with us/me?” for clarity’s sake. Thanks for commenting.

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