Bad Advice


Don’t split an infinitive. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. Don’t begin a sentence with “and.” Don’t use passive voice.

If these rigid proscriptions have been rattling around your head since your school days, veteran Baltimore Sun copy editor and Loyola University Maryland editing instructor John McIntyre would like a word. Well, two words, actually: “Bad Advice.”

That’s the title of McIntyre’s new book, whose subtitle tells you everything else you need to know about what’s inside: “The Most Unreliable Counsel Available on Grammar, Usage, and Writing.”

It’s a tiny tome. Just 51 pages. But it contains pretty much everything you ever wanted to un-know about grammar but didn’t know you needed to un-know it.

McIntyre explains: “Many of the things you are getting wrong in writing are not your fault: you have been badly advised. You have been taught superstitions about English that have no foundation in the language. You have been hobbled with oversimplifications. You have been subjected to bizarre diktats from supposed authorities.”

From there, McIntyre handily obliterates practically every piece of bad advice you ever got, starting with “one of the oldest zombie rules”: Never end a sentence with a preposition. Here's my recent column rounding up some of the book's best tips.

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