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Top Ten Grammar Myths

March 4 is National Grammar Day. Let's dispel some grammar myths!

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #610
top 10 grammar myths

March 4 is National Grammar Day, so I have a special top-10 show to celebrate the occasion, and before you argue with me, read the whole explanation about why each of these is a myth.

Grammar Girl's Top 10 Language Myths

10. A run-on sentence is a really long sentence. Wrong! They can actually be quite short. In a run-on sentence, independent clauses are squished together without the help of punctuation or a conjunction. If you write “I am short he is tall,” as one sentence without a semicolon, colon, or dash between the two independent clauses, it's a run-on sentence even though it has only six words. (See episode 237 for more details.)

9. You shouldn't start a sentence with the word “however.” Wrong! It's fine to start a sentence with “however” so long as you use a comma after it when it means "nevertheless." (See episode 354 for more details.)

8. “Irregardless” is not a word. Wrong! “Irregardless” is a bad word and a word you shouldn't use, but it is a word. “Floogetyflop” isn't a word—I just made it up and you have no idea what it means.  “Irregardless,” on the other hand, is in almost every dictionary labeled as nonstandard. You shouldn't use it if you want to be taken seriously, but it has gained wide enough use to qualify as a word. (See episode 94 for more details.)

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7. There is only one way to write the possessive form of a word that ends in S. Wrong! It's a style choice. For example, in the phrase “Kansas's statute,” you can put just an apostrophe at the end of “Kansas” (that's AP style) or you can put an apostrophe S at the end of “Kansas” (that's Chicago style). Both ways are acceptable. (See episode 35 for more details.)

6. Passive voice is always wrong. Wrong! In passive voice, the subject of the sentence isn’t the person or the thing taking the action. In fact, in a passive voice sentence, the actor is often completely left out of the sentence. An example is "Mistakes were made," because it doesn't say who made the mistakes. Your writing is often stronger if you make your passive sentences active, but if you don't know who is responsible for an action, passive voice can be the best choice. (See episode 302 for more details.)

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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