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Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to (almost) never end a sentence

I regularly read sentences that end with prepositions – words like “in” and “for,” which many of us remember being told never to end a sentence with.

Yes, I am officially a rule-breaker. “With” is another preposition, and whenever possible, I recommend reworking a sentence to avoid ending a sentence with one. This is part of what we do when editing or proofreading – both processes that we take very seriously at Goff & Howard.

However, ending a sentence with a preposition is not grammatically incorrect. The Gregg Reference Manual, Goff & Howard’s preferred style guide, tells us to “use good sense in deciding whether or not to end a sentence with a preposition.”

Sir Winston Churchill even left us with some common sense on the subject. In 1948, an editor supposedly reworked one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it with a preposition. Churchill replied: “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”*

His point rings as true today as it did 62 year ago. If trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition makes the sentence awkward, keep the preposition at the end of the sentence.

*Some historians disagree on Churchill’s exact wording. A few variations of the quote exist, but they are similar to this one.