Correctness is Changing

The internet. With its limitless scrolling and slangy phrases, different usage rules are creeping in. Correctness is changing. And believe me, back in the 1990s, I rode that first wave of rules-keepers who were adamant that correctness was paramount. I carried that insistence with me through my adult life, and my stints in print journalism and academe. 

What I began to realize was, “correctness” just means displaying a working knowledge of rules that are rapidly shifting. The end goal is to increase readability and to convey meaning, right?

To do that, a sentence should be written plainly. So, whether to end a sentence with a preposition is a concern up with which I shall not put

For web content especially, it’s more about readability and whether a search engine will pick up and index your carefully crafted copy. Here are a few important points we’ve noticed at Rooted Web.

You can start a sentence with “but.”

Really. You really, really can. I promise. “And,” “Because,” and all the other words grammarians have insisted for centuries aren’t acceptable for starting a sentence, totally are. I have a caveat here, though: your audience matters.

If you’re writing an academic paper that will be submitted to a committee, you won’t want to be informal in your language, lest you receive a marked-up document and serious side-eye from the rest of the faculty. But if you are not writing to an academic audience, it matters more that you are able to connect your meaning to your reader. 

Sentence fragments are fine.

If a sentence fragment makes sense for the writing you’re doing, use it! And let me clarify what I mean by “sentence fragment”: That’s any sentence missing the subject or a verb. It has nothing to do with length.

To borrow from Stephen King: “Plums deify.” It’s a whole sentence. It contains both a subject (plums) and a verb (deify). Sentence fragments, on the other hand, can be a good way to vary sentence length, which is a good idea. Use them. Like this.

I repeat: Correctness is changing.

Punctuation guidelines are just that: guidelines.

But you need to know what you’re doing, regardless. A comma is a way to link phrases that can’t stand on their own as sentences. A semicolon links phrases that could be their own sentences or breaks up lists with complex items. A period ends a sentence. An exclamation point should be used as a last resort. 

Be mindful of your audience.

Your reader is rapidly flipping through information. If your content isn’t so tight it squeaks, you’ll lose them, every time. And if you have errors in your text, whether factual or spelling-wise, that’s not great either. Your reader doesn’t have a red pen in hand, but your reader does have zero patience for your shenanigans. 

Whatever your needs for written content, you can count on the team at Rooted Web to provide solutions. With marketing services from custom blog entries to complete social media strategies, we have you covered.

Contact us today to dig deeper into your brand’s reach.

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Marybeth Niederkorn

Marybeth Niederkorn is lead copywriter and SEO expert for Rooted Web. She lives and breathes writing, and brings her background in journalism and creative writing to every project.

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