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August 19, 2015


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#9 is my favourite! Thank you Lynn :)

Toni Osai

#4 is the craziest rule I've come across.

I don't remember too many always-never rules, because I usually break them!

Great post.


I really had #7 beat into my head. And(that was fun to start with "And") if I'm not thinking carefully I would write "Please call John Cavanaugh or myself" which is wrong. (Isn't it?)

I was taught to write "Please feel free to call me, or John Cavanaugh if I'm not available." if I am the first alternative. But now I know I don't have to do that...Can you tell #4 vexes me as well? Great article and very liberating.

Fernando del Real

Always rule #3 is too drastic by saying "numbers". There is a variant to it that I have heard many times: "Always spell QUANTITIES that are less than 10. Your examples do not fall into this rule, which it is fine.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello ConstantMummy,

I am glad you like Number 9. "Would not you" and "Did not you" sound crazy to our modern ears.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Toni, you would be surprised at the number of people who have learned not to start a sentence with "because." I think well-meaning elementary school teachers used the rule so students wouldn't write fragments such as "Because I don't like lima beans."

Yes, it's crazy.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Lisa,

You are right about what's wrong ("please call . . . myself").

Another thought on pronoun order: I have not found a rule that says "I" should come second when there is another subject. But I do know it grates to hear things like "I and my wife." I believe our preference is based on what we are used to hearing, not on any rules.

Like you, I feel good starting sentences with "and" and "but."


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Fernando, thanks for your excellent rewriting of the numbers rule. The word "quantities" does work better than "numbers."

Still, the many exceptions mean we can't say "always." I just checked the latest "Associated Press Stylebook," which gives these quantity examples:

--2 tablespoons of sugar
--4 miles
--$2 billion
--5 cents
--3 parts cement to 1 part water
--7 to 9 knots
--up by 3 (score)

Also, when we want a number to stand out--for example, in a job application--we use figures:

--8 years of experience

Unfortunately, I have to ignore the "always" in your rule. But I do appreciate the term "quantities."



Thank you for this article. My supervisor follows the rule of not ending a sentence with a preposition and it often frustrates me. But I comment today because of my frustration with the current proliferation of the incorrect usage of "myself". It is driving me nutty! Please write or re-post anything you have on the correct usage of this word. Most use it incorrectly in place of me, I suspect thinking they sound more intelligent. Sadly it has the opposite effect. (to me anyway)

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Cathy,

Like you, I hear "myself" used incorrectly all the time. I will write a new post on the topic. But in the meantime, here is one from the last U.S. election season, which still applies:



My professor used to take off points for my sentences that started with "Yet". It used to annoy the heck out of me.


You made me more confident in my writi9ng with #4.Thank you.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Sherry, I would have been annoyed too. Starting a sentence with "yet" can provide variety and interest.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Leb, I am glad to have been helpful. Thanks for commenting.



Very useful reminders, here are another couple of Always-Never Rules you can safely break:

1. Never start a sentence with "and".
2. Never have a one sentence paragraph.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

I agree! Thanks, Liz.



This was a very interesting article and I am now reflecting on all the rules taught in English classes. What I find most annoying is that people tend to write like they speak..if you pay attention to co-workers and some supervisors. You have to distinguish between the two in your head, it would much easier to speak correctly so that you can write correctly. Just my 2 cents or my two cents?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Angela, you are right about the challenge between what you learn and how people around you speak and write. We all have to contend with it.

Regarding "just my 2 cents," "The Gregg Reference Manual" says both versions are correct. The two rules it shares are:

1. For amounts under a dollar, ordinarily use figures and the word "cents": 4 cents a pound, 50-cent tokens.

2. An isolated, nonemphatic reference to cents may be spelled out: I wouldn't give two cents for that car.

Thanks for commenting.



The one that really bugs me is when people put a th or rd after a date, i.e. The movie will have its premiere on June 10th. The th is completed in your mind and doesn't need to be written out.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yes, that error of using ordinal endings with dates is very common. One day perhaps it will have become correct.


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