Bad Advice from English Teachers

Over the years, my students have asked a lot of questions about writing and most of the questions are based on bad advice they got from English teachers.

For example, they wonder if it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition. My reply is not my own, but rather comes from Winston Churchill. “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” HUH? But at least Churchill shows us how ridiculous our writing can become if we follow the rule of never ending a sentence with a preposition. For me, that’s just not a rule I’ll put up with.

Another question deals with writing complete sentences (those containing a subject and a verb).  There are times your writing can include incomplete sentences and be very effective. Really. Like just this. Honest.

Now, don’t misunderstand my point. You should write in complete sentences as much as possible. I’m just saying the advice from English teachers that says you must always write in complete sentences is bad advice.

Use partial sentences sparingly, but use them when they make your writing better. Once in a great while it’s okay to have a partial sentence in your writing.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Period.

Happy writing!

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4 Responses to “Bad Advice from English Teachers”


  1. 1 Sevvy November 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    You have to learn the rules before you can break them, hence why kids are taught the whole preposition, sentence fragment stuff. When they get to high school and college, that’s when teachers should be mentioning “Hey, these are rules you should know, but now it’s time to learn how to break them.”

    • 2 expertbookpublishing November 25, 2009 at 12:32 pm

      You make a good point for those writers who go on to college, but I know writers–even editors–who never went past high school.

      I also know (from my years of teaching college) that students often don’t even get the basics in high school these days.

      So, yes, I agree with you that learning rules before breaking them is important. But I also know that high school English isn’t what it once was and many writers don’t have college educations.

      • 3 Sevvy November 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm

        With you saying that I’m wondering what people’s high school educations are these days, because I didn’t learn about breaking the rules of writing in college, I got that in high school when I was supposed to be getting prepped for college. I guess, as you said, high school English isn’t what it once was.

  2. 4 expertbookpublishing November 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    If you’re a Garrison Keillor fan at all, you know how well he learned English. I graduated high school with his younger twin brothers. We were very fortunate to receive the English education we did in high school. But, alas, that was a long time ago.

    Today my college students have never heard of a dangling particple and they have no idea what an adverb is supposed to do.


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