Be always for learning

I love starting my sentences with the word “and”. But there’s some grammar rule that goes like this: Thou shall not start your sentences with “and”. Oh, really?

So you can imagine my disbelief when I heard an English professor say, You can start a sentence with the word “and”.

Me: You can?! How did I not know this sooner? And from then on guess what?

I use any opportunity I can to start my sentences with and. There’s something rebellious about it.

I also learned that the grammar rules that we’re taught in school growing up were meant to help us sound formal. We weren’t taught how to write casual like how we speak in informal settings.

I recently read a Ghandi quote about learning and life on Pragati Chauhan’s blog Meldoy of Words that goes like this:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma gandhi

This quote speaks to me because I’ve been reading a book about grammar lately. Yes, I read grammar books for fun :). Not always though. I’ve been reading the grammar book because I’m always for learning how to improve my writing skills.

Did you know these things about writing and grammar?

Did you know that how and where you choose to add a comma, period, dash, or parenthesis in a sentence makes all of the difference on the effect your message has on your reader? One of my favorites is how commas create pauses, and when you remove the commas it makes the writing flow quicker.

For example, I could have added commas to the following sentence, but I chose not to.

And from then on guess what?

And, from then on, guess what?

It helped me get to my point quicker. (Or so I think. What do you think?)

Your choice on where you choose to punctuate can add emphasis, create a dramatic effect, or create contrast. It can make your message sound formal or casual. A tip on sounding casual is to use contractions such as we’re instead of we are.

The purpose of applying grammar rules is to make it easier on our readers to understand our message, says Joseph M. Williams the author of the book. He says that we can always revise a sentence if it’s not clear enough. 

This grammar lesson is so useful for our writing because it helps when you’re writing everything, from a birthday card to an email.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

We can create different stylistic effects simply by the way we punctuate: punctuation is not governed by rules, but by choices. 

Joseph M. Williams from Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace

What fascinates me about all the ways in which we can use grammar rules in our messages is that we have so many options. You can choose how many dashes to use or not use them at all. You can choose to use a comma or a colon. It just all depends on the effect you want to create.

Why you should be always for learning

Going back to Ghandi’s quote about learning as if you were to live forever, you have the option of learning something completely new like a language or how to play an instrument. Or you can choose to keep learning about the things you’re passionate about.

The effects of learning or the wisdom gathered from learning change us. We can share wisdom with others or become better at using our talents such as someone who’s really good at baking and continues to improve through practice. If anything, learning allows you to grow, to question, and to innovate as you go.

Are you picky with punctuation and grammar rules? And what have you been learning lately?

Your amiga,

Andrea

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Here at The Hummingbird’s Journal blog, you’ll find the perfect read that goes with your cafecito ☕ . The read's secret ingredients? Positive vibes & rays of hope. Welcome.

24 thoughts on “Be always for learning

  1. The English teacher in me loves to break the rules. And I love the freedom of beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. And the emphatic nature of stylistic fragments. I’m not picky—until my style depends on my audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for Insight Andrea

    It’s true you should always try to conspired to learn something new every day” As your knowledge evolves so does your fundamentalism of understanding.

    “However knowledge churns into change with power of deeper understanding but it leads to misdirection with intellectual complexity” E.O.S

    I have seen the changes in my own understanding and writing evolved from previous form just like energy is always transforming from its previous self so does humanity.

    Alex

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Alex! Thank you for reading. You know what, this reminds me of, I’ve journaled a lot since my late teens, and I remember going back and rereading the journal entries (as the years went by) and seeing transformation and, also, ways of improving. I think also what happened was that I gained more understanding about myself by reading my writing. So I can relate to what you said about seeing changes in your understanding and writing–one evolves and transforms. (I’m curious, do you ever start your sentences with the word “and”?)

      Like

    1. Hi Cindy, the one I’m currently reading is called Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams. It’s not perfect, but it does the job. As for the others I’ve read, I don’t remember their titles, I got some from the library and others were from college that I don’t have anymore. 🙂

      Like

  3. I’ve always tried to follow grammar rules but success is not always on the cards for me. Commas are a bit of a pet peeve to me. I would use one in the same place as Steve. If you don’t use any, yes, you make your point quicker but at what cost? When you read something for the first time, you don’t know how to read it. Punctuation helps guide you. Sometimes, I feel like I use commas too often, but I like it that way.

    Dashes are what I need to learn about more since I don’t see many writers use them. Instead, they use commas and semicolons.

    The first thing that came to mind when you mentioned learning about “and” at the beginning of a sentence was an oxford comma. SO many people tell me: “You don’t put a comma before “and.” It’s a simple grammar rule from middle-school.” And (see, I use and to start my sentence sometimes, too), then, I have to tell them that: “No, you should absolutely use a comma before “and” in certain cases.

    While I am very much against getting rid of all the grammar rules, I also believe in the fact that different rules can sometimes be bent, depending on the type of writing.

    BTW, HI! How you been?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Sam! I’ve been okay. I’ve seen better days. Thank you for asking! How have YOU been? I knew this discussion wouldn’t be complete without you. 😄 Seriously, I was like “what would Sam say?”, and here you are!

      I see your point about how the punctuation helps guide the reader. This ties in with how the writer has a responsibility of making the writing as clear as possible for the reader, unless that’s not their intention for a reason.

      That’s interesting how your preference is using commas. It makes me wonder does the reader notice that you’re using too many commas, do they even care if you do, and if it affects the reader’s experiences because of the reader’s grammar preferences? I hadn’t noticed that dashes aren’t that commonly used (also, I think this depends on what I’ve been reading lately). I’ll pay attention more to what writers are using.

      Do you see the commas and semicolons used mostly by specific writers or in specific types of writing, or have seen it all across the board? The reason I ask is because I don’t see semicolons used that often. I remember reading a book that I didn’t even finish reading. The writer had used like what I thought was too many semicolons in the first chapter, and this was a contemporary book. Which says a lot about me, how I think semicolons aren’t “modern”. I find them a bit distracting. But I’m sure other readers don’t mind them at all, maybe even prefer them.

      I’m noticing the use of “and” is more popular than I thought! Thank you for adding your input!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sorry to hear that things have not been easy for you. I hope it gets better, though.

        Thank you for allowing me to way in on this.

        It’s been mentioned to me in the past how too many commas can be distracting. However, I’m not sure when the last time someone said it about my writing was.

        You know what? That’s a good question – Does it matter to me (as a reader) to see fewer or more commas? When it comes to an average piece of published writing, I don’t think so. Usually, it’s a happy medium. The commas are not lacking but they also don’t make you stumble too much. However, when it comes to blogs or social media posts, sometimes I can definitely notice the lack of commas. But it has to be prevalent to bother me.

        It’s so funny because the two books I am currently reading (fiction and non-fiction) actually have dashes. When I noticed them, I paused because I have not seen dashes used that much (if at all) in most of what I read (fiction) and then all of a sudden, there they are. So… I don’t see much consistency here. I guess it just comes down to author’s preference.

        Semicolons are confusing to me. I prefer to use commas, periods, or parenthesis or dash in their place. It’s such an indecisive punctuation mark.

        Stay golden!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, Sam!

        I see what you mean by having a happy medium and the commas not causing you to stumble (I appreciate the imagery of the stumbling, btw).

        Hmmm…that’s an interesting observation about not seeing consistency. The book (nonfiction) I’m currently reading has a balance of commas and dashes–and even the sporadic colons and semicolons.

        I wonder if dashes are more popular in nonfiction books? Or like you said if it just comes down to preference? I just now went to look through two other nonfiction books I’ve been reading (on and off), and they have dashes throughout the book. So it looks like dashes are win for nonfiction!

        Thank you, once again, for sharing your observations with me.

        Stay golden!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. When it comes to punctuation, I generally follow the rules unless I have a reason not to. They’re very flexible anyhow—if I wanted to add in a parenthesis, I can add in the punctuation through the use of brackets, commas or em dashes. All three are correct, but will have different effects on the reader.

    As for grammar, my game is weak. Start talking to me about it, I’ll most likely smile and wave, though I’m open to learning. I know though that following grammar rules too strictly can make you come across as formal, and at the end of the day, I love to write and connect. That being said, if the grammar stops me from doing that, then I’ll break it because it doesn’t serve my purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Irid,

      So true! I hadn’t even made the connection between how you can use the brackets, commas, and dashes as parenthesis. 🤔 Although I’ve definitely used/use them that way. I guess overtime, I stop thinking about the rules (to the point that I even forget the why’s of the rules) and write intuitively — like when you learn to type, and you don’t have to keep looking at the keyboard anymore.

      I agree with you on writing and connecting. I’m the same way. I see how keeping connection in mind helps you make grammar choices. This brings up a question to mind: can writing be formal, super formal, and still connect with readers? Which would lead to what does it mean to connect in context?

      Before I forget, do you start your sentences with “and”?

      Thank you so much for joining the discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see formalities like events. Depending on the event, you’ll dress and present yourself in a certain way because it’s the norm. Although I know sometimes dress codes and language can be used almost to show some sort of status, it can also be an ice breaker so you don’t feel too out of touch from everyone else. It’s like wearing pyjamas to the first day of work. You end up cutting yourself off from everyone for doing so because you’ll come across as not taking your job seriously at all.

        Context-wise, I would’ve thought that you can use formalities to connect in times where you want to be taken seriously or when you aren’t familiar with the environment.

        Also I like to mix things up. I could use the word ‘and’, but there’s also a hundred other ways I can start a sentence, so you won’t see me using it often, if ever.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right! I appreciate the imagery you used to expand on formalities. Yeah, you definitely don’t want to show up in pyjamas to the first day of work, wouldn’t make a good impression. 😄 I see your point of using formalities when you’re not familiar with environment or if you want to be taken seriously like the pyjama example.

        When you mentioned “connect” in your previous reply I thought of connecting emotionally or of a more laidback-type-of connecting that you see on social media where it doesn’t matter if you capitalize the beginning of a sentence or where a sentence’s punctuation mark is an emoji.

        For sure, it’s always good to mix things up! Thank you for answering my “and” question. Looks like its use is more popular than I thought, even if you don’t use it often, if ever.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My characters are generally Appalachian so I use my native hillbilly dialect a lot. Gives M/S word a fit. “And” my editor hates it. (added plus)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi The Tin Cup Clan,

      LOL on your Appalachian use giving M/S word a fit. I see you also use “and” at the beginning of a sentence! 😄 What’s your favorite use of punctuation or do you have a favorite punctuation mark you find yourself using the most?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Folk around here tend to pause and think a lot during a sentence, I use comas’ more than anything to slow the sentence down. Most folk seldom pronounce the “g” in a word, telling becomes tellin’, or getting becomes gittin’ I use that quiet a bit. I write as I speak, no it’s not “polished” as a few editors have felt free to inform me and I’m certainly no academic. In a word, I’m just havin’ fun. But M/S still hates me.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Actually, I follow “grammar rules” — actually, rules of usage and style — more strictly now than I did when I was in school. This, like your usages, is partly a rebellion — in my case, against academic “descriptivist” linguists who follow an “anything goes” policy with respect to usage. (Some of them get highly offended at seeing it described that way, but no one ever refutes it: they all just deny it, a bit like some high-profile politicians.)

    Yes, the use or eschewing of punctuation can make a sentence “read” faster or slower, absolutely, and if you’re a fiction writer, or just trying to maintain a conversational tone, you’ll want to experiment. But an ESL teacher I know on LinkedIn insists that the punctuation is governed by the grammar — which it most certainly is, in the “formal” register. (Of course, it’s not the same punctuation in every language, nor governed by the same grammar!)

    Thus, in your example:

    And from then on, guess what?

    — I’d use the comma unless I had a specific reason _not_ to do so. Why? Because, when you start the sentence with a component (like an adverbial phrase) that isn’t “part of the subject,” you set it off with a comma. And it does make things clearer — although we speak “without the comma” much of the time, especially in N’Yawk.

    Similarly, I use the so-called Oxford comma at the end of a series, to avoid confusion — the traditional example is:

    I had a lively debate at the bar with my parents, Ayn Rand and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Truly a match made in H*ll, unless you include the comma after “Rand.” (Newspapers and print magazines don’t like the Oxford comma, apparently because it “slows the reader down,” but I notice web magazines don’t have that problem.)

    OTOH, the rule about not starting a sentence with a “co-ordinating conjunction” — “but” or “so,” as well as your “and” — is primarily a stylistic rule. I’d rather start a sentence with “and” — as I’ve done several times here — than put all those separate sentences together as a paragraph-long run-on!

    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Steve,

      I agree with you that writers such as fiction writers can experiment with punctuation. I see your point about how punctuation is governed by the grammar in the formal register.

      What fascinates me is how many options one has as the writer, how the choice is left up to the writer (or editor). There’s this example mentioned in the book (page 215) in which he lists ten possible ways of ending a grammatical sentence, four are debatable according to him:

      1. I win. You lose.
      2. I win; you lose.
      3. I win, and you lose.
      7. I win, you lose. (one of the debatable ones, one I’d find myself using)

      But none of the ten options list the following: I win you lose. Which goes back to what the ESL teacher said about the punctuation being governed by the grammar. It wouldn’t be grammatically correct.

      I see what you mean, how the comma makes it clearer in writing since the reader can’t hear the writer’s voice. Definitely a match made in H*ll! 😂 That’s interesting about the print and web magazines.

      I’ll keep an eye out for the differences in their grammar. I wonder if all web magazines use the oxford comma and which print magazines do use the oxford comma? I wonder if the audiences they serve make a difference on their usage and style? I’m sure there’s exceptions.

      Another thing that comes to mind (because as of late I’m really curious about copywriting) is that I’ve never seen a semicolon on say the print on a coffee cup or in a billboard.

      Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion!

      Cheers.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, most coffee cups usually say something like, “It is our pleasure to serve you,” which doesn’t really leave a place for a semicolon. Similarly, you’d never see a compound sentence on a billboard — nothing more complicated than “Winston tastes good like [sic] a cigarette should.”

        The debatable fourth example, above, is guilty of the so-called comma splice, where you use a comma instead of the required semicolon (and there we go) between two independent clauses. I’d never let a student write it that way, though I probably would, myself — again, if I were trying to reproduce my own spoken inflection. (I’ve even used sentence fragments in music reviews, for similar reasons — and I rarely let my students get away with those, either.)

        I think the punctuation differences between Web and print are less about audience preferences and perceptions, and more about the Web journals’ not being derived from print in the first place. In a newspaper or old-style magazine, it was feared that the extra “Oxford comma,” for example, would slow the reader down because of s/his mental pause — so print journals generally eschew the Oxford comma. That’s simply not a consideration online — although short paragraphs ought to be. (My heart sinks at the thought of reading a long, uninterrupted block of type on a screen; as often as not, I don’t actually read it all.)

        SFV

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I recently took pictures of the text I’ve seen on coffee cups and found that there’s a place for a semicolon. I was trying to prove a point with the semicolon bit in my previous reply, but, honestly, I’m not good at debating.

        I was trying to prove the point that punctuation is governed by choices in that the people who wrote the text on the coffee cups or billboard have punctuation choices. For example, they chose not to use the semicolon. Like you said, those types of places don’t use complicated text, something brief and to the point.

        Your billboard example could have read: “Winston tastes good; a cigarette should taste good”. Here are two of the coffee cup examples (courtesy of Caribou coffee)—both of which could have included a semicolon had the writer wanted it that way:

        1. WAKE UP AND GET IT TOGETHER
        2. LIFE IS TOO SHORT. STAY AWAKE FOR IT.

        But then I realized that you’re right: the comma example is a comma splice and a grave sin (in the world of prescriptive linguists). So, if I were to remove the 4 debatable options, then that would mean that all the punctuation options that are left have already been approved by the prescriptive-linguists gods. Meaning, you’re right, Steve—punctuation is governed by the grammar rules. You win, I lose. 😄

        Most definitely, don’t ever let your students write that way or get away with using sentence fragments. A professor once said you have to know the grammar rules first before you even consider breaking them (or bending them). You know the rules, so I see how you’d know how to use sentence fragments to reproduce your spoken inflection in your writing.

        I’m sorry I put you through reading the short paragraphs on this humble blog post and in my replies! Honestly, I’m quite honored you took the time to read the blog post AND leave a reply. Not everyone leaves a reply (or reads the blog post). Plus, you’re very knowledgeable on this topic and apply your knowledge very elegantly in your writing. Your thoughts were needed on this matter, so thank you!

        (In this age—of short attention spans, scrolling, and character limits—I want to master the art of saying more with less; perhaps with age, I’ll get there.)

        p.s.

        I took a picture of the following church billboard sign:

        THOU SHALT
        WASH
        THY HANDS
        #20SECONDS

        They didn’t even use a punctuation mark, and it still brought humor to my day! Also, this didn’t inspire the introduction for this blog post…or maybe subconsciously it did. I think it worked!

        Liked by 1 person

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