Posted by: Jack Henry | May 17, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Rules Change

Recently, I wrote about how the natural evolution of language leads to changes in our English grammar rules and standards. Well, I’m not the only one thinking about this subject. Shortly after writing that post, I received an article from called “Rules Do Change.”

Like I mentioned before, rules and standards are changing due to the way people actually use the English language. You may have learned a rule in school that is no longer applicable. You may have even learned a rule that was never actually a real rule (like don’t split infinitives). I’m telling you this so that you’ll stop relying on the “I learned it in school” refrain. You may have learned it, but that doesn’t mean it’s relevant. Rules really do change.

Are you wondering what rules this article focused on? Well, it covered four rules we’ve gone over before here at the Editor’s Corner, but we still get a lot of questions, so they’re worth a review. I’ve abbreviated the text for your convenience. Read on, curious language lovers.

· Spacing after periods, colons, question marks and exclamation points

Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just one space after a period, colon, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of a sentence. You will not be struck by lightning, we promise! [dbb – This may be one of the most controversial rules we enforce. I’m not sure why some people are so attached to two spaces, but, boy are they! And we always remove them according to JHA standards. It’s a maddening dance for everyone involved.]

· Quotation marks and punctuation

Today, in American English usage, the period always goes inside the quotation marks.

Example: Myrtle said the word “darn.”

· Forming plurals in English

As time has gone on, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form.

Example: The words memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda.

With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now often seen with both singular and plural verbs, although the word is considered strictly plural by purists.

The data are being tabulated.
The data is useful to the scientists.

Yet other words still retain their original spelling and plural form.

Example: curriculum (singular) and curricula (plural).

· Beginning sentences with but, and, because

In “the old days,” you may have been scolded for starting a sentence with but, and, or because. But you wouldn’t have deserved that scolding.

Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen.

We’ll be sure to let you know as rules and JHA standards change. But if you have a question about language rules, don’t forget to look it up on that fancy new internet thingamabob that puts knowledge literally at your fingertips. Just make sure to look for reputable resources and websites. Have fun storming the internet! (Shameless Princess Bride reference.)

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

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