by Allison Maruska


There are many rules that govern our writing and language use. Ever useful, sometimes changing, and occasionally bizarre.

There are some rules I just can’t seem to learn. My brain refuses to let them in, and I have to look them up every single damn time I need to use them. One of those is the lay/lie/laying/lying differences. Grammar Girl comes in handy with that one.

But most of the time, as a proponent of writing correctly, I do a decent job at spotting errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. And this is true:

Even so, there are a few rules that are just dumb and I’m less strict about.


Dumb Rule 1: All right, alright, all-right

That last one isn’t real. I just wanted the McConaughey reference: “Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln can’t make left turns. It just goes alright, alright, alright.”

I was stubborn about this one for a long time. In my mind, “all right” means “completely correct” and “alright” means “okay.” I used “alright” in dialogue, and “all right” sounded/looked stuffy to me. And then there’s this: “Although ‘already’ and ‘altogether’ are standard, ‘alright’ isn’t.”

All though they were there all ready, it was all together a chaotic situation, all right.



Dumb Rule #2: Regional spelling differences

There are some rules that only exist because America.

And they only exist in America.

Take toward/towards, for example.

Or all those words that lost their “u” on their trip across the pond/over the Canadian border: What’s your favourite colour?

I don’t write those words with the added “u,” but I do write and say “towards.” I also get comments on it in the critique group frequently enough to notice.

Me: She walked towards the store.

CP: Towards in the UK, toward in the US.


This is one I won’t budge on, mainly because I say towards and I think it sounds better. Not everything we Americans do “just because” is the right thing.


Dumb Rule #3: Punctuation always goes inside the quotes (but only in America!)

Look, it’s another regional-specific rule!

Punctuation inside quotation marks: “Why?” ≥ “Why”?

“Depending on the English-speaking nation, punctuation marks either go inside quotation marks (America) or outside (pretty much everywhere else). Considering the fact that this debate wages on an international scale, no further explanation is really needed.”

I’ve had to correct myself because of this rule about half a dozen times just in this post. Unlike “towards,” I try to follow the US rule on this one because more people fuss about it and I don’t want to die on that hill. That said, it makes sense to me that a quoted word or phrase (I’m not talking about dialogue here, by the way) should be considered its own entity and not have punctuation invading it.




Guest post contributed by Allison Maruska. Allison likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically. Check out her website for more of her work.