What’s more fun than punctuation? Okay, you don’t have to answer that. For some of us, we love it. We love getting our hands in the nitty-gritty of the question of split infinitives, to use or not use the Oxford Comma, and why you shouldn’t double space after a sentence. Oh, and there’s so much more to think about with grammar. Just like language, the rules of grammar shift over the years. However, it’s crucial to your communication skills to know what to do and what not to do. Read on for a bit of grammatical enlightenment.
Why is grammar always changing?
Grammar, just like vocabulary and diction, is constantly changing. Why, though? Why don’t we speak like our great-great-grandparents? Let’s take a good look at the split infinitive for a great explanation. Then we’ll cover some other old-school grammatical issues.
Split infinitives: To use or not to use?
In this article from The Guardian, we get not only a great definition of a split infinitive, but a bit of its history, too. This can help us see the ever-changing, ever-evolving path of grammar and language. First, let’s get this out of the way. What is a split infinitive?
A split infinitive is when other words creep into the middle of an English infinitive. The most famous example is Star Trek’s “to boldly go where no one has gone before”. The Victorians decided that splitting an infinitive was a grammatical mistake, and some people still agree with them.
That leaves us with a big question. Are they okay to use? The Guardian article goes on to share that the Victorians thought it was “clumsy” to split these infinitives and thus deemed it incorrect. However, you often hear them used today, and we all think it’s okay. The article also shares that Researchers at Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press have concluded that split infinitives are now nearly three times as common in British speech as they were in the early 1990s.
So, you see, language is a shift. Whereas it used to be a no-no, now the use of a split infinitive is completely acceptable. However, some people like Stephen King, are not fans of adverbs and would tell you to write your sentence without that adverb. Therefore, you don’t need to split your infinitive. Just use a stronger verb. So, are you confused now?
The bottom line, split infinitives are okay. Go ahead.
The double space after a sentence
If you are under 35 or 40 years old, you’re probably not even aware of this one. But back in the day, people learned to add two spaces after each sentence. Hmmm, that’s kind of strange, you may be thinking. But why was this a thing? When people worked on typewriters rather than computers, spacing was a little wonky. If they could use double spaces at the end of a sentence, it added some consistency to the format. But when writing switched from typewriters to evenly spaced word processors, those double spaces just began to look weird. See. Oof, that was almost hard to do.
We are going to give double spacing a big no. It’s not so much wrong as it is frowned upon. It kind of shows your age and adds an overly formal and strange vibe to your work. And, for sure, if you’re writing your kid’s college essay, those double spaces are a clear giveaway!
This one shows not only grammatical evolvement but also societal changes. Years ago, when you wrote, it was necessary to use he/she or his/her when you included a pronoun. Then there was a shift to using “they” even when referring to a singular noun. No more awkward his/her or he/she. What’s lovely about this is that it’s in line with the gender norms we’re seeing today. Not everything is an assumption. Take a look:
- Every writer loves to talk about grammar. He/she sometimes knows what he’s/she’s talking about.
- Every writer loves to talk about grammar. They sometimes know what they’re talking about.
You see, that first example is not only awkward but now it’s socially incorrect. We love how language is fluid to embrace change and acceptance.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about commas
While we’re talking about grammar do’s and don’t’s, let’s mention some more common usage mistakes. One thing people seem to have a lot of trouble with is the comma. That little bit of punctuation, barely larger than a dot, can cause all kinds of strife. Some common comma mistakes lead to run-on sentences, comma splices, and inconsistent Oxford commas. Not only is correct comma usage and knowledge important in writing, but it’s also crucial to get them right in other professions, like translation and transcription.
These guys are the sentences that just keep going. They make you out of breath and begin to be hard to understand. Often a simple comma or two can take care of it.
Here’s a pretty basic example of a run-on sentence:
My sister graduates high school this spring she’ll go to California next fall.
Now see how a simple comma+and can fix it:
My sister graduates high school this spring, and she’ll go to California next fall.
Sure, run-on sentences can be much longer and more garbled. If you’re not sure about comma usage, just make two sentences.
My sister graduates high school this spring. She’ll go to California next fall.
What in the world is a comma splice? It kind of sounds like a split infinitive, eh, only a bit more painful? It causes that same angst in many people, though it’s a different grammatical mistake. A comma splice is using just a comma to fit two independent thoughts together. Let’s go back to our original sentence:
My sister graduates high school this spring she’ll go to California next fall.
We know that’s a run-on sentence, but here it is with a comma splice:
My sister graduates high school this spring, she’ll go to California next fall.
Remember we added “and” to the comma in the previous example? We’ve got to do that or else we have a comma splice, and no one wants that. Again, be careful with commas.
The Oxford comma
I feel like we need some foreboding music here. This strikes fear and anger and passion in the hearts of many. The Oxford comma is the last comma in a list of three or more things. Take a look:
My dog loves bones, biscuits, and balls.
That comma after biscuits is the Oxford comma. And it would be completely appropriate to leave it out. There’s nothing wrong with this:
My dog loves bones, biscuits and balls.
However, you need to be consistent. If you use it once, use it all the time. And if your list contains longer terms, you may choose to use it for clarity, like this:
My dog loves to run in the woods, play in the creek, and sleep in my bed.
How do you know if you use split infinitives or incorrect commas?
Let’s admit it, not everyone is a grammar buff. So how do you know if you are using a split infinitive or a misplaced comma? Maybe this quick guide helps a little, but for some people, punctuation is like learning a foreign language. That’s where help swoops in like Superman. Some people swear by apps and grammar checkers like Grammarly.
This article from our Bunny Library shares this about grammar checkers:
Using a grammar checker does not only make the job of writing easier for the writer who did it but for all involved in the writing process. It could be the editor handling the text after the writer, a proofreader, up to the person reading the final version of the text or a book.
Sometimes you’ll have to make your own decisions when you use a grammar checker. Not everything is 100 percent right or wrong. Some grammar checkers love hyphens while some writers don’t. Then there’s that Oxford comma; do what speaks to you when it comes to that. But, yes, a grammar checker or proofreader can certainly come in handy.
And speaking of proofreaders, we highly recommend them. You may know someone well versed in all things grammar who is happy to take a look at your work before you submit it. People often hire someone or a service to give their work good once over before it gets sent out. We at Bunny Studio pride ourselves on our great writers who are happy to proofread. That extra set of eyes is always a good idea.
Our Bunny Studio pros
If you are looking for the grammar nerds, ehem, I mean grammar pros, you’ve come to the right place. Our Bunny pros are skilled in all things grammar. Our writers eat, drink, and breathe grammar (do you see that Oxford comma there?). They would love to check over any of your work or help create your content. You just supply the details, and we can create a great final product. Give us a shout at Bunny Studio; we are here to help and let you be free of those splices and run-ons.
The big takeaway on split infinitives
How can we say it better than this:
“And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before–and thus was the Empire forged.”
If you want to split an infinitive, by all means, do it. If you want to use the Oxford comma, it’s all yours. But please, please, don’t double space after your sentences.