The Rules I Break

Last week I discussed learning the rules and knowing when to break them. I thought I’d share a list of the things I don’t quite write right, by choice or otherwise, and why I do it:

Double quotation marks

I write in British English, which usually uses single quotation marks, but I prefer double quotes in my own personal writing. Why do I break the rule? Because I don’t like the confusion that can sometimes occur with single closing quotes and apostrophes. For example:

‘Don’t take the girls’ toys’

“Don’t take the girls’ toys”

Double quotes show much more clearly where the speech ends. If I were reading the British version, I’d get stuck on the word girls’, thinking perhaps that that’s where the speech ended.


Double spaces at the end of the sentence

Once upon a time I used to single space, until my mother told me it’s correct to double space. It felt weird and wrong, but in the interests of accuracy, I trained myself to double space. So, which is correct? This is where it helps to know why rules exist in order to determine if you want to follow the rule.

From the Grammarist:

The two-space “rule” came about thanks to the monospaced type used by mid-20th-century typewriters. Because monospaced type (i.e., type in which every character occupies the same amount of space) has a uniform appearance, the double-space between sentences broke up the text and made it easier to read.

In computerized word processing, the only widely used monospaced font is Courier. All others are designed with proper proportion between letters, and double-spacing does not necessarily make the text more readable.

 I agree with this argument so I’m trying to train myself out of the double-space habit, but it’s hard. (Arrrgh! I’m doing it right now!)


Ending a sentence with a proposition

This rule comes from Latin snobs and needs to die. Who the hell says twisted things like “She’s a nice person to which to talk”? As Winston Churchill famously said, this is something “up with which I will not put”.


Verb collocations – “there’s”

I am happy to sometimes get a bit colloquial in my use of “there’s”, for example, “there’s few things worse than” or “there’s hundreds of reasons you would”. Technically, I should be saying “there are” or “there’re” but seriously, who wants to say that out loud? “Therrrrrrirrrr”


There’s probably quite a few of these I use, but one in particular that stands out is acronym. I learned a while back that a term formed from the first letters of each word in a phrase is actually called an initialism. A special kind of initialism where you read each initial as if it were a word is an acronym. So for example, the British Broadcasting Corporation is better known by its initialism, BBC. It is an initialism because you say the letters separately – “bee bee cee”. If it were an acronym, you’d be saying “bubbuk” – kind of awkward without any vowels.





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