grammar rules worth fighting for

Grammar errors plague us all.

(Yes, the title of this post is a joke.)

I may have mentioned that I’m a bit of a grammar nerd. I’m not as much of a stickler on this blog as I am when writing more formally. Still, I think it’s very important to communicate clearly, and that means knowing the rules of the English language and playing by them.

Unfortunately, English is one of those languages in which not everything is cut and dried. Sometimes, my grammatical opinions don’t align with everyone else’s… and sometimes it can get me into a heated debate or two. These are some of my controversial grammar beliefs. See if you agree!

Double Spaces after a Period

This needs to stop. Please. I’ve had many discussions with my mother about this one, and I am standing my ground.

I’m told that anyone who learned typing on a typewriter learned this way. You see it in legal documents and other official writing as well. But really, everyone, it’s 2016. Automatic kerning allows computers to perfectly space letters in standard fonts depending on the context. Not only are these extra spaces unnecessary now that no one is using a typewriter, but they’re also just plain wrong. In my opinion, anyway.


Here’s an example of when I break my own rules. My rules for ellipses are as follows:

  1. In the middle of a sentence, use three periods to form the ellipsis.
  2. At the end of the sentence, use four (three for the ellipsis, and one to end the sentence as a period). This is the one I break, because it looks silly – but I know that’s the right way to do it. Most of the time, I’ll just avoid using ellipses at the end of sentences, or I’ll end the sentence with a different form of punctuation. For example, see the header of this section!
  3. If the ellipsis could be replaced with a comma, include a space after it before moving on to the next word. If it could only be replaced with a space, then don’t add a space. For example:
    No space: And I…will always love you…
    With a space: Near… Far… Wherever you are…

Of course, you can use ellipses to shorten quotations and the like. That’s more of an academic exercise than I want to discuss here.

Possessive Apostrophes for Words Ending in “S”

This was a subject of contention in my First Year Physics class. We spent a number of weeks studying the Laws that a scientist named Gauss developed. But how do you properly title these laws? Here’s an example that shows the proper way to use possessive apostrophes:

The class’ focus was Gauss’s Laws.

That’s right, folks. Unlike your regular nouns, proper nouns require an “S” after the apostrophe every time. That includes proper nouns that end in “S”. The confirmation for this came from my Physics professor’s wife, who happens to teach English. (I got really riled up about it in class, haha.) Now, not everyone agrees with this rule and you won’t see it adopted everywhere; that’s why it’s controversial. Nevertheless, this is the method I believe is the most correct.

Also, I want to take the opportunity to point out that apostrophes should not be used to pluralize nouns. This includes proper nouns. So if you’re one of those families with a name sign outside your house or cottage, it should say “The Smiths”, not “The Smith’s”, for example. If it doesn’t, go outside and fix it. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Awesome.

Oxford Commas

I love me some Oxford Commas. (How’s that for perfect grammar? Just kidding!) If you’re writing a list of individual items, they should all be separated by commas to avoid confusion. Let’s use everyone’s favourite example.

Grammar: Oxford Commas

Obviously, these sentences have two different meanings. If you’re trying to achieve the meaning of the first sentence, though, you need that comma!

There you have it: a list of grammar guidelines that you may passionately support, vehemently detest, or definitely ignore regardless.

Either way, what are your thoughts on my “rules”? What grammar rules are you proud to follow?