The English language comes with lots of rules, many of which are just plain stupid. Some of the dumbest ones are taught in schools and people are forced to follow them, at least until they graduate. But when you get out to the real world observing these outdated rules leads to a stiff writing style that doesn't make you look intelligent or professional. It makes you look out of touch.

Not only that, many of these rules lack any legitimacy whatsoever-despite the fact that they're routinely taught. So please feel free to do any of the following:

1. Go ahead and split that infinitive.

If you're lucky, you may never have heard of this stupid rule that, among other things, disallows the Star Trek opening "...to boldly go where no one has gone before." To go is the infinitive form of the verb and, according to some over-the-top grammarians, the infinitive should remain whole.

The reason, at least in theory, is that in Latin, an infinitive is always a single word and can't be split, therefore we English speakers shouldn't split ours even though we can. Hogwash. That approach leads to "...boldly to go where no one has gone before," and other equally clunky constructions.

2. Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition.

It's not even clear how never-end-a-sentence-with-a-preposition got to be a rule. Writing clear and graceful sentences is challenging enough without adding rules that have no particular logic, and this is one great example. Twisting your sentences around to avoid the preposition at the end can make your writing clumsier than it needs to be. Compare "He was someone I looked up to," with "He was someone to whom I looked up." Which flows better, reads more easily, and sounds more like natural speech?

Or, as Winston Churchill reportedly said of the no-terminal-preposition rule, "This is the sort of tedious nonsense up with which I will not put."

3. It's fine to use contractions.

Contractions are constructions where a letter or letter is replaced with an apostrophe, such as it's, don't, I'll, etc. "It is fine to use contractions," doesn't flow as well but some people argue against contractions especially in more formal texts.

You can ignore those people. Writing when you are not allowed to use contractions often does not seem as graceful as it could be. And you would not want everything you write to come off sounding as stiff as this paragraph does.

4. You may use sentence fragments. Sparingly.

A sentence requires a subject and a verb. A seeming sentence that lacks either or both is called a "sentence fragment." Many teachers, and many spell-checking programs, will flag a sentence fragment (such as the one-word sentence above) as a grammatical error.

If you write a sentence fragment by accident, which happens to me all the time, then that spell-checker is doing you a favor and you should fix it by adding a verb, completing a clause, or whatever else is needed. But if you wrote the sentence fragment on purpose, consider leaving it be.

Sentence fragments are usually used for dramatic effect, as in: "The best there is. Period." And they do indeed convey drama. But as we all know, too much drama is a bad thing, so the best approach to sentence fragments is to use them, but only once in a while.

5. Don't fear the one-sentence paragraph.

I was taught this rule in school and I bet you were too: Every paragraph should consist of at least two sentences. What's weird is, not only is this not a rule, no one is even sure why anyone thinks it is. And yet, it's routinely taught in schools throughout the English-speaking world. Those with the patience for such things have gone back and analyzed the texts of great writers have found high percentages of single-sentence paragraphs (43 percent for Charles Dickens, for example). In fact, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution is itself a single-sentence paragraph.

What better endorsement could there be?