This is in response to the editorial of May 23. The grammatical rules discussed (ending a sentence with a preposition or beginning a sentence with a conjunction) have not become extinct, nor are they “myths.”
Texting, IM’ing and e-mail have made communication much less formal, which is why so many of the old rules seem unimportant. According to Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. Dorothy J. McCawley, Ph.D., of Purdue University’s online writing lab advises, “Writing guidelines have softened the rule on ending with a preposition. The reason for the rule is partially psychological. The beginning and end positions of sentences are places of emphasis or stress.”
Basically, the issue is how formal or informal the writing situation is. In terms of split infinitives (also according to Purdue), it is definitely incorrect to insert additional words between the word “to” and the verb in the infinitive.
Of course, speaking and writing are two very different things, which is why many phrases used in speech are grammatically incorrect but sound acceptable. The formality of the situation is the true guide.
Thank you, Sun Journal, for an interesting column and a fun subject for an English geek!
Carol Applebee, Sabattus