4 Pieces of Debated Grammar

Updated on December 14, 2016
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

There are many things in the written English language that make the French Revolution look mild. All you have to do is mention specific topics and stand back to watch the fireworks. Why? Because there are good grounds for each argument. Sometimes, it is a tradition. Sometimes it is the fact that there is a rule, and some people are stuck on rules.

No matter what, here are four grammar rules that are highly debated.

The Oxford Comma

This is one that I can get pretty heated over. I don’t understand the debate. It should be simple.

I had to run to the store for apples, sugar, milk, butter, and eggs.

I had to run to the store for apples, sugar, milk, butter and eggs.

Many people, including experts, feel that a comma should not go before the ‘and’. The commas replace the ‘and’. To a degree, I concur, but…..

If you don’t put the comma in, the items listed aren’t what you think they are. Let’s look at the list in the first sentence:

apples

sugar

milk

butter

eggs

Now let’s look at it in the second sentence:

apples

sugar

milk

butter and eggs

What are butter and eggs? I’ve never seen that item in the store. Now I’ve seen butter and I’ve seen eggs, but nothing that is butter and eggs. New frozen breakfast dish? What is it?

The comma is not the ‘and’ so much as distinguishing the separate items in the list. It’s a directional signal. Don’t mix us literary travelers up!

Quotation Marks and Punctuation

When it comes to quotation marks and the various types of punctuation used at the end of a quoted piece, there is a very large debate. It’s one that I dive into constantly.

If I’m quoting from a text, I need to use quotation marks around the words I’m using verbatim. Let’s use this example from CNN.com:

At first, the most ambitious attempt ever to create a new multinational currency all seemed to go so well. The predicted problems with banks and vending machines never materialized. The euro surpassed the dollar in value. The launch was hailed as a success. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/06/europe/greece-how-did-we-get-here/index.html)

Let’s say I want to quote a part of the first line: It has been reported that this is “the most ambitious attempt ever to create a new multinational currency”. What I just did is the fire of this heated debate. I put the period outside the closing quotation marks. Many people say it should go inside. I object! Why? Because the period was not part of the original quote.

I was always told that you only put inside the quotation marks exactly what you are quoting. In this case, I’m not quoting the period. It wasn’t there originally. I only put inside the marks what I am taking from the source.

Real Words - Irregardless

I will admit that I never fully realized that ‘irregardless’ was not a real word because it is used so much. Or is it a real word because of that?

Technically speaking, you never have to say ‘irregardless’. The word ‘regardless’ says exactly what you mean to say when you add the ‘ir’ in front of the word. But over the last few decades, maybe even the last century, we have changed that and given the words new definitions.

So, is it a real word? If you are a purist, no. If you are one who things you should easily adapt language to the times, then yes.

Sentences Ending with Prepositions

I was raised never to end a sentence with a preposition. I followed the rule, but it didn’t seem right. We spoke with the preposition at the end, so it was natural we wrote that way. Now the rule has changed. You can technically write a preposition at the end of a sentence, but some people feel that is still wrong.

He turned to see what I was looking at.

I had to know what he wanted it for.


These two sentences end with a preposition. This used to be incorrect, but now it is accepted. What do you think?

Your Opinion?

What is your stance on these rules? Do you agree in breaking them? Or do you stick with the rules? Share your thoughts.

Questions & Answers

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      • Trish_M profile image

        Tricia Mason 

        20 months ago from The English Midlands

        Hi :)

        It's a long time since I was at school, but I do recall being told not to end a sentence with a preposition. However, since then, I have heard that this is not true. Rather, it all depends on what sounds better and clearer. Sometimes a final preposition may sound clumsy. However, altering the sentence in an attempt to improve matters might result in something that sounds far clumsier. There are some comments on where this rule came from, here: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_val...

        As for the Oxford comma, I rarely use it. I attended grammar school and don't recall ever being told to do so. Since the comma replaces 'and', your first sentence would be: 'I had to run to the store for apples and sugar and milk and butter and and eggs', giving us too many 'ands'. Again, I think that it is a case of using it only when it makes writing clearer. Some examples are given here: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/01/video-o...

        I had never come across the word 'irregardless' until I joined a forum and began conversing with American members. I suppose that it is simply the language evolving but I'm not sure that I like it.

        As for quotation marks, I read about them until I thought that I understood how to use them. The problem was that, the more I read about them, the more difficult I found it to use them correctly. Given your example, I agree with your logic on the matter.

        Interesting subject!

      • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Graf 

        20 months ago from Wisconsin

        (Cat on a Soapbox) Thanks for stopping by. Grammar can be fun but debatable. My professors and I go around on this quite often. lol

      • cat on a soapbox profile image

        Catherine Tally 

        20 months ago from Los Angeles

        Hi Rebecca! I'm glad to see that we've relaxed the standard with end-sentence prepositions. I also learned that it should never be done, but sometimes it seems necessary. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the comma when listing items and loved your example of "butter and eggs"-lol.

        Your point about the punctuation inside quotations marks is also persuasive. I think if it's not part of the original quote, put it outside; otherwise, put in within the quotation marks. I'm a grammar nut, so I enjoyed the discussion. Thanks!

      • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Graf 

        20 months ago from Wisconsin

        lol Glad we're on the same page. Yes, there are some I like to argue with but teacher's win out I guess.

        Thank you for stopping by.

      • RonElFran profile image

        Ronald E Franklin 

        20 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

        I'm with you about including the comma before the "and" in a series. I think it makes things much clearer. But I'm still not sure about putting a period or comma behind rather than within quotation marks. I've always understood that in American (as opposed to British) English, that kind of punctuation always goes inside. Actually, I'd rather do it your way, as putting it inside sometimes seems very awkward. So, maybe I'll let you convince me.

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