We all grew up learning certain language rules, but what you may not know is that some of the rules you learned were wrong.
We can’t blame the teachers since most of them weren’t linguists or had English degrees. They just did what they could with the resources at hand, and those resources often perpetuated these false grammar rules.
Over the years, I’ve discovered some grammar myths, and I’ve been trying to expose them on this site. Here are 5 that I’ve written about so far:
1. Never use “like” to introduce clauses
The myth goes something like: you must use “like” when comparing nouns and “as” when comparing clauses. However “like” introducing clauses has been in use for centuries by dozens of great writers, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, HG Wells, and William Faulkner.
2. Never start a sentence with a conjunction
Like the first myth, people have been starting sentences with conjunctions for hundreds of years. In fact, the oldest record we have of such usage is from the 9th century.
3. Using “alright” is wrong
As the theory goes, “alright” isn’t a real word and should be written as “all right”. However, like the others, this is another one of those made-up rules; “alright” is a legitimate word with a wide usage. It, too, has been around for centuries, having emerged around the turn of the year 1700. Plus, it has been gaining popularity for at least 100 years.
4. Never use “that” for a person; use “who” instead
Again, if you support using “that” for people, you have time on your side. “That” has been the standard relative pronoun for about 800 years for persons, animals, and things, 400 years before “which” and 500 years before “who”.
5. Don’t use “they” as a singular pronoun
Some people are sticklers for keeping “they” as a plural pronoun, despite the fact that we don’t have a gender neutral singular pronoun. The thing is that such people don’t have a leg to stand on: the singular they has been in common use since the 13th century, about 700 years longer than “he” (which was the proposed standard for much of the 20th century).
What are some persistent grammar myths that you wish would finally die out?
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