Before their workshop at the NGV Art Book Fair in Melbourne, writing studio the Good Copy shares some tips
1. Mistaking style issues for errors
Should you use italics for movie titles? Do you put full stops inside or outside quotation marks? Is the Oxford comma for all lists or just some lists? Should that ellipsis have had a space on either side of it?
The correct answer to each of these questions is it depends. In other words, theyre style decisions. In penning, as in fashion, “youre going to” figure out the style thats appropriate to your situation and apply it consistently. Regrettably, many of us expend our professional lives being corrected by people who believe the style guidebook they once assured on their nannas bookshelf is The Official Grammar Gods Eternal English Rule Book.
2. Misstep ye olde conventions for rules
Beyond style decisions, most of the things people mistake for rules in grammar and punctuation are simply conventions that crawled out of the inundate at some phase and got a foothold, either in a school curriculum or as a recommendation in a 19 th- or 20 th-century grammar screed.
Dont start a sentence with a conjunction? Thats never been a rule. True story. If anyone tries to start trouble with you about this, hand them the Chicago Manual of Modern Style:
There is a widespread belief one with no historical or grammatical foundation that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so.
And then finish them off with the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage: Everybody agrees that its all right to begin a sentence with and.
What about ending a sentence with a preposition? Avoiding this has never been a rule, either. As Winston Churchill said: This is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put.