All romance, no grammar: lessons we can learn from great works of literature

Some of the greatest works of literature contain beautifully written declarations of love. But if you want to learn the rules of grammar, don’t look to these novels for help. Here are some of the most romantic quotes from literature and explanations of the grammar rules they bend and break.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald ‘To-night’ is possibly confused with the correctly spelled word, ‘tonight.’ In the past, this hyphenated spelling of ‘tonight’ was common, but it’s best to use the modern spelling in your writing to keep the meaning clear.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak When ‘earth’ is used as a proper noun (as it is in this quote) it should be capitalized. If you’re using earth as a common noun (for example: Dinosaurs used to roam the earth.), it needs to be preceded by the article ‘the.’

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen The issue here is the overuse of commas and the conjunction, ‘or.’ There is a beautiful poetry to this style of writing, but if you’re writing for work or school, we suggest keeping things a little simpler.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway This is another example of a poetically worded sentence that could be restructured for practicality and clarity. While the combination of compound phrases is compelling in a novel, if you’re writing in a professional setting, it’s best to separate this many clauses with commas or periods. Adding a comma after ‘books’ would help differentiate these related thoughts.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë The colon in the middle of this sentence emphasizes the lover’s declaration. However, because this sentence contains two separate but related clauses, it would be more grammatically correct to use a semicolon instead of a colon.

The language of love can be beautifully poetic, but it isn’t always the most grammatically correct. When you’re writing professional or formal documents, stick to the rules and save the poetry for your valentines.


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