Yes, there are rules.

Lots of folks seem to have gotten the idea that “there are no rules” about English anymore. I have to guess that they’ve seen and heard the articles and discussions about prescriptivism versus descriptivism, and their takeaway has been “Well, so rules can be broken.” That becomes “rules don’t matter,” and from there it’s a short hop to “there are no rules.”

Yes. There are rules.

Grammar is rules. That’s all grammar is, actually. Rules about how words work together to form phrases, clauses, sentences. Granted, some of the rules aren’t what you remember being taught. “Every sentence must have a subject and a verb” was, in my case, taught as “you need at least two words, a subject and a verb, to have a sentence.”


You can have a one-word sentence (like the one just before this, the meaning of which is clear) with just a verb, like “STOP!” The subject is implied, and it’s “you.” It’s not visible, but it’s for damn sure understood.

Now before someone goes off about me being wrong, hear this. “Grammar” is the rules of how language (any language) functions. It doesn’t include spelling, or punctuation, or usage, or any of the things people like to include in “grammar quizzes.” It’s rules, not guidelines. I bet you know when something’s ungrammatical. It breaks a rule (or several of them). Guidelines aren’t broken; they’re bent. But I digress.

I know that the word “grammar” is used (sloppily, in my professional opinion) to mean “grammar, mechanics, usage, and syntax.” That bugs the fuck out of me.

When I talk about grammar, I mean grammar, period. Not that other stuff. The rules of the language (any language or dialect has its own grammar). Rules.

Even Yoda follows grammatical rules.

Yes. There are rules.

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