1. It is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with And or But.
The single most important element in fluid writing is the use of effective transitions between sentences and paragraphs. And no transition is more effective than the plain single-syllable words and and but.
The notion that it’s ungrammatical to start a sentence with a conjunction has long been ignored by the best writers and debunked by reputable grammarians. Look at the op-ed page of any major newspaper or scan through some pages of any well-edited magazine and you’ll see plenty of examples. Why? Because conjunctions are excellent transition tools, signaling how the sentence to follow fits in with what came before—and because they’re short, sharp, and fleet. And and but are usually more effective than clunky conjunctive adverbs such as additionally and however, which add syllables and demand a comma after them.
2. It is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.
The “rule” that you should not end a sentence with a preposition is a misbegotten notion based on Latin syntax and expounded by a few (a very few) 19th-century writers. Grammarians have long since dismissed it as ill-founded and unnecessary. Often a sentence that ends with a preposition sounds far more natural than the same sentence forced into avoiding the terminal preposition. Consider: What will the new product be used for? versus For what purpose will the new product be used?
That said, a strong sentence should end forcefully because the end of a sentence is the most emphatic position. A preposition is rarely a powerful sentence-ender, but it is not an ungrammatical one.
3. The adverb corresponding to the adjective good is well.
When describing performance, manner, action, and the like, use the adverb well . Though becoming more widespread, the adverbial use of good is nonstandard English . The question whether to use good or well frequently arises when someone asks “How are you doing?” The best answer—assuming a positive response— is “I’m doing well” (or “I’m fine, thank you”). Saying “I’m good” is common but unrefined. The response “I’m *doing good” is substandard because good is there being used as an adverb. An exception to the rule against using good as an adverb applies with certain set phrases .
4. The subject of the sentence determines the number of the verb.
A subject and its verb must both be either singular or plural. Grammar Girl says so. (Grammar Girl and says are both singular.) All grammarians say so. (Grammarians and say are both plural.) The rule seems so elementary as to be trivial. But a lot can go wrong. A prepositional phrase modifying the subject is a common source of trouble: Should be an oversupply of foreign imports take a singular or plural verb? The answer is singular, to match the subject oversupply. Although compound subjects generally take plural verbs, sometimes a subject really expresses a single (and singular) idea . The subject, bread and butter, is plural in form but singular in sense, so it takes the singular verb is.
There (in its use as a subject stand-in, as in There is another way) presents a special problem, one that some authorities call the most common grammatical error today. In inverted sentences, the true subject follows the verb . The subject profits is after the verb go. Yet people seem to want singular verbs with there regardless of what follows, and errors result . The compound subject capacity and competition should take the plural verb are, not the singular verb is.
Illusory compounds can also cause trouble. These occur with constructions such as together with, as well as, and the like, none of which forms a plural. . The subject is the singular board, which takes the singular verb endorses.
5. Both either and neither, as subjects, take singular verbs.
Beware of distractions caused by prepositional phrases containing plural objects: The subject—either or neither—is still singular .
6. With neither/nor and either/or in the subject position, the second element controls the number of the verb.
When the correlative conjunctions either/or or neither/nor frame alternatives in the singular, the verb is singular . When the alternatives are plural, the verb is plural . But when one element is singular and the other is plural, match the verb to the second element .
7. A flat adverb like thus or doubtless takes no –ly ending.
Most adverbs are formed by adding the -ly suffix to adjectives (large makes largely, quick makes quickly) or changing the -able suffix to -ably (amicable makes amicably, capable makes capably). But the English language also contains a fair number of adverbs that do not end in -ly (such as fast, ill, and seldom). With these, it is unnecessary—and unidiomatic—to add the suffix -ly. The two most common examples are *doubtlessly and *thusly.
8. The words however, therefore, and otherwise cannot join independent clauses without additional punctuation.
An independent clause (1) contains a subject and a verb and (2) expresses a complete thought. It can stand alone as a sentence, or it can be connected with another clause by a comma and a conjunction (such as and, but, or) . When two independent clauses are joined with a conjunctive adverb like however, a semicolon must go in front of the connector and a comma after . Omitting the semicolon or replacing it with a comma creates what is known as a “comma splice” .
9. With a verb phrase, the adverb usually goes after the first auxiliary verb.
Writing authorities have long agreed that midphrase is the strongest and most natural place for an adverb . The alternatives are awkward or nonsensical . Resistance to this guidance may be due to the old superstition that it’s ungrammatical to split an infinitive (it isn’t), since that is one type of split verb .
When the phrase has more than one auxiliary verb, the most natural placement is usually after the first one (as in has long been assumed).
10. Relative pronouns (that, which, and who) must appear alongside their antecedents.
A relative pronoun (that, which, who, whom, and various forms with the –ever suffix) serves one of two purposes. First, it can link a dependent clause to an independent one . The dependent clause (whoever wants to participate) serves as the subject of the main clause. Second, it can join a clause with its antecedent . Here, the dependent clause (who want to participate) adds crucial information about its antecedent, those.
The second type of relative pronoun should be close to its antecedent—preferably immediately after it. The link must be clear because trouble can occur when the reference becomes uncertain . Which is being eliminated, the position or the department? Restating the sentence clarifies it . The relative pronoun that immediately follows its antecedent, customer-service position.
11. An appositive is set off by commas when it is not essential to the sentence (when it is nonrestrictive), but is not set o? by commas when it is essential (restrictive).
An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that follows another noun (or pronoun) and identifies or depicts it more fully .
In the first example, the appositive Pat is not set off by commas from the rest of the sentence. In the second, a tall man in an oversized suit is set off. The reason is that appositives, like relative clauses (those introduced by which, who, and whom), may or may not be essential to the meaning of the sentence. Pat, in the first sentence, is essential—it specifies which colleague (presumably out of several) is being referred to. In the second sentence, the appositive merely adds description. We could also say that Pat, in the first sentence, defines or restricts its referent, colleague, while the appositive in the second sense is indefinite or nonrestrictive. Current stylebooks use the terms restrictive and nonrestrictive to label these qualities.
Appositives may also be set off by em-dashes (typically for emphasis) or parentheses (typically for deemphasis) instead of commas.
12. Correlative conjunctions (those used in pairs) require parallel phrasing.
Correlative conjunctions (such as both . . . and, neither . . . nor, and not only . . . but also) work in pairs, joining related constructions that match in syntax. Each conjunction should immediately precede the part of speech it describes. Parallelism is rarely a problem with simple nouns , but it becomes tricky with phrases and clauses, as in the erroneous phrasing *We not only raised our regional market share but also our profit margin, which should read: We raised not only our regional market share but also our profit margin. The verb raised must be outside the first correlative conjunction (not only) to apply to both possessive phrases (our regional market share and our profit margin).