Getting to grips with grammar rules is essential for anyone who writes professionally. Whether you’re writing press releases, reports, online content or social media posts, applying grammar correctly is crucial for ensuring that your message is received clearly.
That being said, there are times when rigid grammar rules can and should be ignored.
Language doesn’t exist in stasis, it’s fluid and constantly evolving which means that fixed rules can’t always be easily applied to it. There are times for grammar rules to be broken.
Among other things, the internet has radically changed how language functions on a day-to-day basis. Anyone who writes online content will know that there are times when sticking too closely to certain grammar rules will often make your writing sound too formal.
Here are three grammar rules that you shouldn’t be afraid to ditch:
Don’t use personal pronouns
Anyone who has ever written an essay for college will be hyper aware of this one. In academic writing, the use of personal pronouns is strongly discouraged and will often be penalised.
But using personal pronouns in informal writing is almost an essential. Using “I” or “we” can make writing feel much more personal and much more accessible. Personal pronouns allow you to connect with your audience and even, when necessary, couch your writing in personal experiences.
Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction
Surprisingly, not starting sentences with conjunctions is one grammar “rule” that has absolutely no grammatical or historical foundation. The truth is, there is no reason not to start a sentence with “and” or “but”. In fact, a significant amount of sentences (up to 10 percent) in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.
Who knows where this grammar myth came from, my guess is that it was started in the classroom by an overzealous teacher.
Avoid the singular “they”
Language is constantly evolving, however, while many claim that using ‘they’ as a singular is a new phenomenon and grammatically incorrect, documented use of the singular ‘they’ in literature can actually be dated back centuries.
One of the arguments against using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun is that a ‘plural’ pronoun can’t follow a single antecedent. However, the word ‘you’ is another common (and now widely accepted) example of a plural pronoun that has become a singular pronoun. In Early Modern English, ‘you’ was the plural and ‘thou’ the informal singular, so there is grammatical precedent for plural pronouns becoming singular.
‘They’ can be used as a personal pronoun for people who don’t wish to use strictly masculine or feminine pronouns, it can also be used as a stand in pronoun for an unknown person.
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