There was a time when “smoking pot” might mean that you’d burned your dinner and when every typing teacher insisted on two spaces after a period. But c’mon, language changes and grammar changes. If you’re out there loudly bellowing that no sentence should ever end with a preposition, you’re not only wrong but your writing can suffer. Marketers and writers of all kinds must, by virtue of our occupation, evolve along with the beautiful, messy English language of ours. What am I talking about specifically? Well:
- Oh my God, I literally died! Grammar purists will question why a deceased person is speaking to them, but most other people will know that when the word “literally” is used outside of literature analysis, many people now mean it as a form of emphasis. Even many dictionaries now agree this is an accepted definition. If this is the way your target market speaks–for instance, many people under the age of 30–why fight it?
- At the top of this blog post, I mentioned the double-space-after-a-period issue. Many people were taught to type this way–and it was absolutely correct at the time! But now double spacing after a period just wastes spaces, and when you’re writing ad copy or a tweet, that can be much-needed real estate. One space is 100% correct.
- Ain’t ain’t a word. Sure it is! You know what this contraction of “am not” means and have probably been scolded not to use it. But everyone knows what you mean when you say it and it’s found in most dictionaries, even if it’s considered nonstandard English. Now, does that mean you should say in your formal annual report that you ain’t seen any profit growth? I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you’re saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or another colloquialism, or doing something like writing song lyrics, go for it.
- Don’t hate something because it’s new. Okay, you hate twerking. Fine. Parents in the 1920’s probably wrung their hands when “jitterbugging” was added to the dictionary, but there it remains to this day. Words which seem new or weird will become perfectly standard parts of the language tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to embrace new words as they grow to describe our world. Often, like my new favorite portmanteau “hangry” (you know, that feeling you get when you’re so hungry you’re angry? You know you’ve felt it), these words can accurately describe something which we didn’t have a word for previously. And that adds to precision of language and tight diction, which every grammar purist loves.
You don’t have to jump on ever verbal trend and tic out there, but don’t let yourself be a calcified old grump of a grammarian. Our language is awesome, and I wouldn’t want it to stop expanding any time soon.