Grammar Question

Last week, Paul and I were chatting about the rules on ending a sentence with a preposition. This all started with the ridiculous, and painfully accurate, post about grammar on the Stuff White People Like Blog #99.

Paul wrote: Getting caught in the middle of a power struggle at the firm is certainly something of which to be wary.

Though technically correct, I think this wording is painful. Here’s my thinking:

In certain cases, re-wording a sentence to avoid ending it in a preposition sounds affected, and this might be one of those times. As Zinsser says in “On Writing Well” (page 41):

The growing acceptance of the split infinitive, or of the preposition at the end of a sentence, proves that formal syntax can’t hold the fort forever against a speaker’s more comfortable way of getting the same old thing said – and it shouldn’t. I think a sentence is a fine thing to put a preposition at the end of.

But following the Zinsser rule leads to this problem: you worry that the person reading your writing might think you don’t know proper grammar. Nonetheless, I’ll end sentences with prepositions if it’s something I would speak. So, I wouldn’t say “where you at?” but I might say “what are you thinking about?”, or even “what building do you live in?”


2 Responses to Grammar Question

  1. carolyn huckabay says:

    i’m with you, and i’m an editor, for chrissakes. technically, ending sentences with prepositions is illegal, but fixing a hanging “about” draws more attention to itself than just writing like a normal person. (unless you’re a lawyer, in which case you can get away with sounding like a square.)

  2. Paul says:

    I agree with you too, but sometime my inner 50-year-old lawyer comes out anyway…

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