Hello, Grammar Purist…
Language is ever-evolving, according to Mignon Fogarty, self-titled “Grammar Girl” and author of Grammar Girl Presents the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students. She explains that grammar rules are often in a consistent state of flux; they shift in line with cultural convention as they adapt to new norms. “Proper English” is strict, but following it strictly can make you seem stuffy. As an example, Fogarty calls out the rule that calls for a comma after the greeting, before the name, in email salutations (see above). Following that rule could make you seem strange and hamper your message, which is why it’s one of the rules that Grammar Girl has let go. Many of the recent changes in rules reflect progressive changes with regard to gender, race, and associated biases as experts want the language to reflect evolution that shows inclusiveness and respect.
The singular “they”
One of the biggest and most progressive changes in grammar involves the use of the singular pronoun “they”. Think of “they” or “their” as replacing the awkward and imprecise use of “he or she” and “his or her” in sentences like “Each person went to his or her desk,” or the even more outdated use of “he” as a universal stand-in for both genders. Now you can write, “Each person went to their desk,” which doesn’t make assumptions about gender even if the persons are generic. However, the new use of “they” also acknowledges the specific pronoun of persons who don’t identify with “he” or “she”. In that sense, using “they” offers language that is “respectful and inclusive,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA) Style Blog. If you know a person’s preferred pronouns, always use those, and be aware of other preferences such as “ze” or “hen”. In fact, the dictionary just changed the dictionary definition for “they” and added other recent additions.
And now you can start sentences with a coordinating conjunction
You’ve probably always heard that you should never start a sentence with “and,” “but,” or, “or.” But maybe you do it anyway? And you’ve gotten away with it? But you still feel nervous when you break this rule? According to Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, these conjunctions offer a “soft” opening for sentences. You can use them, but see if you can find a stronger, more effective choice before dropping this style choice into your writing.