Opinions, Self-Improvement, Skills & Workshops, Tan Lili

Grammar Rules, Revisited – Tan Lili

Do you cringe whenever you spot grammar mistakes, like the unfathomable misuse of “you’re”/“your”? Well, good, because such errors are unacceptable. Other rules, however, can be bent a little … Tan Lili explains.

In this Internet age of LOLcats and Doge where creative licenses have been liberally used in the English language, many self-proclaimed Grammar Police have stood their ground and mercilessly shamed those who choose to “talk or write funny”.

As a writer, I am occupationally obliged to condemn bad grammar. In fact, I’ve been labelled a “grammar snob” more times than I care to admit; I die a little inside each time I spot a blindingly obvious grammar mistake. Just take a look at “Weird Al” Yankovic’s recently released “Word Crimes”, which highlights unacceptable errors, like the misuse of the words literally and irony.

But, as a modern-day writer, I reckon some rules can be bent:

To Boldly Go Where No Grammarian Has Gone Before

Fact: this archaic rule of infinitive-splitting isn’t legit. It was based on one 19th-century grammarian who declared it wrong to place an adverb between the word to and a verb (e.g. “to slowly recover” or “to subtly leave”). So, yeah, it’s been nice splitting infinitives with you, but I’d prefer to quickly move on to the next point.

We Write, We Eat, We Run

An infamous grammar mistake in which at least two independent clauses (complete sentences) are joined without the proper punctuation or conjunction, run-on sentences can make your writing seem sloppy. But, when used sparingly in the correct context, they actually make for a clever writing tool to deliver an impact and strike a chord with your readers.

And Then There’s This

Since Primary One, we’ve all been taught that a conjunction – for, and, but, or, so, yet, etc. – can only be used to join two sentence elements. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting a sentence with one, either. Done strategically, it can either serve as a transitional element or add a dramatic tone to a passage.

So Error. Many Love. Wow.

Here’s the thing: Internet slang is funny for those of us who get it. Our love of emotional theatrics manifests itself in this new age of verbal incoherence, and it’s awesome. Websites like 9gag, Hyperbole and a Half, and The Oatmeal are my go-to sources for unfiltered Internet-speak entertainment. It’s not as if we were rewriting the English language rules; some of the Internet terms are intentionally ungrammatical. As long as you use Internet slang in the right context (read: NOT formal writing) and are able to discern proper grammar usage from wrong, don’t let those rock-ribbed prescriptive grammarians stop you. #hatersgonnahate


It’s fascinating to see the evolution of grammatical forms. To me, that’s one of the many beauties of linguistics. There are many other so-called grammar rules that can be ignored in creative writing. (Another example: You can go ahead and end a sentence with a preposition.) Do you know of some? Share them in the Comments section below!

About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.