There are some myths in English grammar that people continue to believe and practise in their essay writing. It is a dismal situation that most English users learn these English grammar myths from their teachers who do not bother to update themselves with the evolution in English.
- Never split infinitives
“To publicly critique someone you respect” was considered a grammatical error in the past because an adverb ‘publicly’ is placed between ‘to’ and the verb. Some professionals may still avoid it, but many publications regard it as acceptable.
- Never use contractions in essay writing
Some English users believe that contractions should never be used in essay writing. They believe that contractions like won’t, can’t, shouldn’t etc should only be used in spoken English. This is no longer true as more and more newspapers and publications are using contractions in the writing.
- Never begin a sentence with ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘because’ (conjunctions)
As English evolves, this is no longer true. It is now acceptable to begin a sentence with ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘because’. People promoting this myth are either not reading newspapers or do not care to learn proper English.
- Never begin the essay title with prepositions
It has become a writing style for essay writing to be entitled using prepositions like ‘of’ or ‘on’. Examples of essay titles that I came across just now were
- Of Professionals and Degrees
- On Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia (KUTKM)
- Never use first-person pronouns in academic writing
There is a superstitious notion that says never use first-person pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘we’ in essay writing because doing so will make your essay writing to look unprofessional. Contrary to the notion, English writers are encouraged to use first-person pronouns to draw readers’ attention and to put some life into your writing. Corporate letters should use ‘I’ to personalise the letter and accept responsibility.
- Never refer the readers as ‘you’
Copywriters will find this myth very funny. Please take note that you can actually refer the readers as ‘you’ or ‘we’ to include yourselves. However, you should be consistent in using either ‘you’ or ‘we’ throughout your essay writing.
- Never use ‘between’ with more than two objects
This is a popular misconception among English beginner users. While it is true that we use ‘between’ when comparing two objects, it is correct to use ‘between’ when more than two people or objects are involved.
Examples taken from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE):
Comparing two things: In her book she makes a comparison between Russian and British ballet.
More than two people or objects:
- Tom divided his money between his children.
- Between the four of them they managed to lift her into the ambulance.
- We collected £17 between us.
- Never use ‘since’ as because
There’s a groundless notion that ‘since’ is only used to mean from a particular time or event in the past until the present, or in that period of time. ‘Since’ can actually be used to give the reason for something. The following sentence taken from dictionary is grammatically correct.
- Since you are unable to answer, perhaps we should ask someone else.
- Never use direct question
Using direct question in writing to arouse the readers’ interest on certain topic has become an essay writing style. When writing essay on smoking, for instance, you can include questions like ‘what are the bad effects of smoking?’ and ‘why people smoke?’ in your essay. There are debates that direct question is not suitable for academic writing.
- Two-syllable adjectives must use the suffix –er or suffix –est form to form comparative or superlative
E.g. prettier, prettiest; gentler, gentlest; narrower, narrowest. Adding ‘more’ or ‘most’ to two-syllable adjectives to form comparative or superlative, however, is getting common and gaining ground in modern English. E.g. more pretty, most pretty; more gentle, most gentle; more narrow, most narrow.
After all, the evolution of English is about ‘spoken’ style becoming acceptable as writing forms.
Differences between British and American English
Correct Date Format in Essay Writing
Perring, Guy. "Informal or what?" Mind Our English 18 May 2007.
"Myths" Essay Info.