Let It Live!

grammar

We adore correct grammar. At the same time, we know that language is alive and that the rules for its proper use come and go. Language changes—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

For example, let’s look at the word “baseball.” It seems very straightforward and obvious to us in its present form. Yet it began as “base ball,” later became “base-ball,” and is now the familiar “baseball.” The same is true of other compound words such as “doghouse” and “mailbox” and “website.” The evolution of these words goes from open to hyphenated to closed. We don’t have a lot of trouble rolling with this kind of change.

What we tend to cling to are rules we learned in our youth. To some, starting a sentence with a conjunction such as “and” or “but” is considered incorrect. Others think that splitting an infinitive mangles a sentence. People of a certain age were taught to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, and many of us learned that it is egotistical at best and rude at worst to refer to ourselves as “I” in formal writing.

But all of these rules have been discarded. (See what we did there?) Language shifts often come about because a rule simply has not worked for many, or because it is more fluid to allow something that has been forbidden in the past. Here at Eagle Eye, we often enjoy guessing the decade in which our clients were educated based on their adherence–or lack thereof—to particular grammatical rules. (Good as we are with language, our guesses are often off.) The tricky part is to acknowledge and embrace changes in what is considered “correct” without allowing the language to become so loose as to create a grammatical free-for-all.

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