How Old Are You?

When we were kids, carnivals and fairs sometimes had a booth where, for a fee, someone guessed your age.

We don’t charge a fee for our guess, but sometimes we play that game now. Language evolves, but people tend to stick with the rules they learned when they were young. Show us someone who feels comfortable ending a sentence with a preposition, who is not dismayed by split infinitives, and who thinks it perfectly acceptable to start three sentences in a row with clauses, and we’ll show you someone who is probably not more than 30 years old. That same person is more likely than his or her elders to omit commas after short opening clauses and to begin a sentence with a conjunction.

Of course we don’t always play this game, since we’ve got a lot of interesting editing and writing to do. And we don’t always know how accurate our guesses are, since, regrettably, we sometimes meet our clients only via email. But when we do make an estimate, it’s fun when we get to meet the client and see how close we were. If we say so ourselves, we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Then again, it’s always amusing to have someone pegged as a dowager and have that person turn out to be a hipster, or vice-versa. We like it when you keep us on our toes—whatever your age may be.

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