Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What to End a Sentence With

HotJobs recently made it to the Yahoo! homepage with the story "7 Jobs to Skip College For." And we got many concerned letters about the title. This is an example:

The title of this article is "7 Jobs to Skip College For" and contains two grammatical errors. Never start a sentence with a number. Spell it out, like "Seven Jobs." Also, the title ends with a preposition, which is another mistake. It makes more sense to write the title this way: "Seven Jobs that Don't Need College Degrees." If you are going to skip college, at least take an English class!Melissa

I don't normally answer comments, but the uninformed nature of this one makes it irresistible.

1. This is not a "sentence." It is a headline. Headlines often begin with numbers. I don't know how Melissa has made it through a grocery-store checkout line without noticing that numerals in headlines are rather the norm.

2. You can, in fact, end a sentence with a preposition (I'll note again, though, that we are not discussing a sentence). Anyone who says you can't has never, I assure you, opened a grammar or usage book (or any reputable book on writing or editing) and is, instead, relying on a "rule" passed down by an ill-informed sixth-grade teacher. The ban on sentence-ending prepositions is a centuries-old myth that has been thoroughly debunked.

(Further, I suspect that a person who believes this myth doesn't closely read much of anything. How could a person possibly read the printed page's countless sentence-ending prepositions—which appear daily in the finest periodicals and are used by the world's most highly esteemed writers and editors—and not begin to doubt it?)

3. Melissa's suggested title makes far less sense, in fact. Jobs don't "need college degrees." People need college degrees to get jobs. Also, in a title-case headline, the word that should be capitalized. I would love to ask Melissa if she knows why.

If you're going to correct someone's grammar, please make sure you know what you're talking about.

No comments: