My rough n' ready writing rules AKA grammar for the lazy

Primarily it’s that proportional fonts are designed so that only one space is necessary. Monospace fonts needed (I suppose they still do, but I’m anti-two space) two spaces to make the ends of sentences stand out better. Proportional fonts build that into the font itself.

I was an English teacher, but don’t look to my posts for perfection.

According to Harbrace (the Eleventh Edition), prepostions can be placed at the end of sentences. The question “Where’s your birthday party at?” is wrong because the “at” is redundant. Where’s your birthday party? should be sufficient.

I wouldn’t worry about the commas so much as the error in subject verb agreement in the relative clause. (I.e., it should be “…one of those rules that exist because…”)

OP’s “rough n’ ready” rules seem to be more about punctuation than grammar.

Since monospaced fonts are still required for professional manuscript submission (though that is not as hard and fast as it used to be), I always type two spaced after sentences. Or, rather, I do it without thinking for monospaced fonts, and only put in one for proportional fonts.

The rule against split infinitives has been fading for over a century. Henry Watson Fowler – as conservative a grammarian as you could find – wrote around 1908 that is was worse to awkwardly avoid splitting an infinitive than to split it. The only caveat was not to split it with a long phrase, which is clunky.

As for prepositions at the end of a sentence, modern English still doesn’t really allow it, BUT that’s because no one ever puts a preposition at the end of a sentence, anyway. What people usually think are prepositions are really part of the verb (the particle). The classic example is “This is something up with which I will not put.” The verb of the sentence is “to put up with,” which has a differerent meaning than “to put” (or even “to put up”). In nearly all cases, the word is not being used as a preposition, even though it usually is one.

The issue comes up most often in questions. But to actually end a sentence with a preposition is rare – it just sound wrong and the sentence seems incomplete.

I like all of these. I’d add:

its = possessive, meaning “belonging to something” (“The regiment took pride in its history”)
it’s = contraction, meaning “it is” (“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”)

Something is either unique, or it isn’t. There are no degrees of uniqueness (“very unique,” “truly unique,” etc.)

Use adjectives sparingly.

Avoid the passive voice if at all possible.

Until we have a good single word which means “his or hers,” or “he or she,” you should either use those formulations, or rephrase the sentence to avoid clunkiness. But don’t use “their” or “they,” which are plural (I know, I know - this battle is probably already lost).

The best book I have ever read on writing is Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Part autobiography (with a postscript on his encounter with the van), part how to write book and very very entertaining.

ETA: In reference to the his or her debate, I wonder if the debaters ever heard of the words “the” and “a.” Someone left his hat? What about “Somone left a hat.” Everyone in the class took out his pencil? vs. Everyone in the class took out a pencil.

Conversely, doesn’t “quality” need a modifier? When a commercial talks about a quality product, shouldn’t it be high quality or top quality? Just plain quality could mean poor quality or low quality. Everything has a quality. Is it good or bad?

No!!! Colons and semicolons have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. The only similarity is their shape. To substitute one for the other would make you look like an idiot.

I didn’t choose the sentence, I just answered the question.

Hey, you forgot your definite article. “The” Op’s …:wink:

We could play this game all week.

Ha! My grammarpolice officers are on patrol EVERYWHERE!

My writing rules vary depending on the audience. So do yours, fach. So do yours, astro. And really, the only rule I need is this: The rules I’m using to communicate to my intended audience should come together to expose as much of my message as possible in as few words as possible.

And regarding punctuation, it’s generally easier to figure out what a commaphile meant than what a commaphobe meant. The longer an unpunctuated string of words, the more likely it can be parsed in at least two different ways.

I can’t believe this ‘two periods are old fashioned’ stuff. I seriously am stunned. I had no idea I was doing some old fashioned typing, and now I feel old.

I am going to try to get with the times and type one space after each sentence. I have already failed. As a matter of fact, I just realized that I space twice even after the last sentence I intend to write.

Don’t worry, usually multiple spaces are ignored in html anyway. Look at the posts - there’s only one space where you typed two. :wink:

As for me - I’m not a native speaker, and I never paid any attention to english in school. I just do what feels right. I’ll have to change that at some point - everything I do that’s related to tenses is pure guessing, for example.

Every piece of writing needs to be edited, ideally by someone else. If this is not possible, sleep on it and read it over tomorrow, yourself.

e.g. = exempli gratia = “example given” - use this when you are providing an example
i.e. = id est = “that is” - use this when you are specifying or clarifying
I don’t mean to call the OP out on this mistake because it is so common, but here it is:

(amended by me)

You would use i.e. in a case like this:

I think there are degrees of uniqueness.

Something can be locally unique or universally unique.

Something can be unique in the sense that each fingerprint or snowflake is unique—or something can be unique in the way a 12" snowflake or a “Virgin Mary” fingerprint would be unique.

My current (election year) struggle is trying to remember when to capitalize president, congress, senator.

“McCain is running for president.”
“Palin is running for U.S. Vice-president.”
“Kennedy is a senator.”
“Senator Ted Kennedy”
“Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin”

I think those are right, but I find myself frequently pausing to think about the rules.

Not quite.

Starting with the pedantic stuff: according to current ideas about syntax, particles are prepositions. They’re simply intransitive prepositions. This notion is totally alien to traditional grammar, but it’s fully integrated into more current syntactic theories.

And next, not all of these “prepositions at end” are particles. Some are traditional prepositions that simply have to be sent to the end. For example, a contact clause (a relative clause without a relative pronoun) mandates a preposition at the end. For example:

That was the woman with whom I went.

That was the woman I went with.

Dropping the relative pronoun “whom” doesn’t change the fact that “with” is a normal preposition. But the contact clause does mandate that the preposition be shipped on back.

Not true. “One of a kind” is only one definition of unique. Check a dictionary.

Not necessarily good advice.

Not at all good advice.

Again, not true. The “singular they” dates to before Shakespeare, and the Bard himself used it. Wondering whether this “battle” is lost is a little bit like wondering whether the English defeated the Spanish Armada.

There’s no governing body that lays down universal capitalization rules. Each organization has their own rules for this (and many other similar things), usually in something called a “Style Guide”. For instance the Associate Press has a style guide (that almost all newspapers use), and there are other well-known ones. So the only way to say that a particular capitalization is correct is to know who is printing it, and check their style guide.