When I was in grade school, I was taught four grammar rules that I should absolutely never violate.
1. Never start a sentence with “But” or “And”.
2. Never start a sentence with “Because”.
3. Never end a sentence with a preposition. And (oops!) –
4. Never split your infinitives.
Mark Tredinnick in his book Writing Well offers good reasons why there are exceptions for these rules.
1. Consider these sentences –
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry; and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day.
Where do these sentences come from? The King James Bible – “the Bible Jesus preached from as he walked along the shores of Galilee” (as one radio preacher said). Not only is it okay to begin a sentence with “But” or “And”. It’s almost a divine imperative.
2. “Because” is sometimes the most natural way to introduce a phrase or clause. Tredinnick gives this example –
Because this is a complex sentence, I can start it with “because” if I want to.
Sometimes (though not always), it is more awkward to replace “because” with “due to the fact” or “as a consequence of” just to satisfy an archaic rule.
3. It is often a good idea to keep your prepositions in the midst of sentences (not at the end), but occasionally this creates worse grammar than it fixes. Tredinnick tells the story of Winston Churchill, which I heard in a slightly different version. Once Winston Churchill was challenged about ending a sentence with a preposition in one of his speeches. He quickly replied,
That is a comment up with which I shall not put!
4. Tredinnick points out that the rule not to split infinitives is a carry-over from the Latin language. Where would Star Trek be without the split infinitive
“to boldly go where no man has gone before”?
Rules are made to be broken. Even grammar rules. Still, this does not excuse us from learning what the rules are and only selectively choosing to violate them when it makes for better writing.