Now, when it comes to grammar, there are two types of rule: good rules and bad rules.
The good rules are the basics: it really does matter where you put the apostrophe, the comma, the bracket and so on. For example, “We value our customer’s opinions” means something completely different to “We value our customers’ opinions”. (The first refers to a single customer and therefore implies you only have one customer; the second refers to multiple customers, which is an infinitely preferable state of affairs.)
If you’d like to get a better grip on the basics I highly recommend Lynn Truss’s Eats Shoots and Leaves.
But there are lots of rules we were often taught at school that aren’t actually rules – these are bad rules.
For example, it’s perfectly OK to start a sentence with ‘and’, despite what some people might think. Similarly, many people believe you can’t split an infinitive (although ‘to boldly go’ proves them wrong). It’s also true that grammar fashions change over time (there’s more on this here).
Now, you can take two approaches to bad rules and fashion rules when you’re writing copy. The first approach is to proceed with right on your side and cheerfully start sentences with ‘and’ and split infinitives all over the place.
However, you need to bear in mind that your writing will make certain types of reader shudder.
And if you think the bulk of your readers will be people like this it’s ultimately unhelpful to alarm them, even if you know right is on your side. The last thing you want is for your readers to be tutting about what they perceive to be your slack use of the English language because it means they won’t be focusing on the thing you want them to focus on.
My advice – get the basics right, it’s vital. But when it comes to matters of style, let your readers be your guide. If they wouldn’t do it, neither should you.
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