Dreyer's 'Nonrules' You Can Ignore


They say that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on. The source of this pithy saying is a perfect example: It’s usually attributed to Mark Twain, though the New York Times reports it was most likely Jonathan Swift.

But we need an equally pithy saying for what happens next: The lie colonizes the world and decrees that under no circumstances should the truth be granted a visa for entry.

That’s how grammar myths work — especially the grammar myths that were all the rage in the 1950s and 1960s.

These misguided “rules” traveled around the world at lightning speed, carried on the tongues of folks who love to say, “You can’t split an infinitive” and “You can’t start a sentence with ‘and.’” And despite the efforts of many language experts determined to set the record straight, the lies linger.

In his best-selling new book, “Dreyer’s English,” Penguin Random House copy chief Benjamin Dreyer delivers these “nonrules” the bludgeoning they deserve.

Could his be the final death blow to these superstitions? We can only hope. Here are Dreyer’s “nonrules” and why you can, with his blessing, ignore them entirely.


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