If you do any of the following, you’re probably over 40 #Grammar #Justforfun #AmWriting

I was just working on a document a fellow writer sent me for review, and I couldn’t help but notice all those spaces between sentences. Ah, I thought, she must be over forty since she’s using the old-fashioned two spaces after a sentence rule. That got me to thinking about grammar rules that have changed and whether it’s possible to guess someone’s age from their grammar. So, just for fun, let’s have a look at grammar that gives away your age.


grammar-3Two spaces between sentences. If you use two spaces after a period, you’re probably over forty or use a manual typewriter. And I really hope you don’t use a manual typewriter. There are actually people out there who do. Yes, it’s true. I once took a job at the Province of North Holland to replace someone who was retiring. Not only did the man use a MANUAL typewriter, but he had a big cartoon taped to his dusty computer that said computers were for cave dwellers. I never did understand that joke.


grammar-4His or her. Welcome to the new century, where we are now using the singular they. I know, I know. It feels wrong, but – admit it – it’s also easier and kind of makes sense. The Brits are totally okay with the singular they, American sources are still clenching their teeth and wondering why we have to follow the stupid Brits anyway.


And or But. If you are violently opposed to starting a sentence with and or but, you’re probably over forty. Unless, like me, you like to write in first person and have realized that a lot of thoughts start with BUT. If you’re one of my characters, you probably use the word ‘but’ way too much, BUT you don’t know how to stop.


Split infinitives. Oh gosh, where to begin with this one. We all learned in school that splitting infinitives was bad – equivalent to having sympathy with those Ruskies. (In case you didn’t guess it yet, I went to school during the Cold War.) Unless all your characters are over forty and speak using perfect grammar (or are Sheldon Cooper), you’re going to need to get over your irrational fear of split infinitives.


Fun is a noun. Apparently, fun is now an adjective and we mere mortals are allowed to use it as such. I’m still violently opposed to ‘funner’ and will continue to fight the good fight against the use of that word in anyone’s vocabulary. Good thing I live in a country that does not have English as a first language, because you just know I would stop people on the street and correct them for use of that word. (Free has also morphed into an adjective, but one new adjective a week is all I can take.)


I’m not going to get into the defunct use of whom. Whoever did the research indicating its use was declining obviously hasn’t read any fiction lately. For my thoughts on the whole who or whom debacle, read this blog post.




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  1. I’m over 40 and I don’t use double spaces after a full stop, although my last manager did.He’s over 40 as well.

    As for Americans not liking the way we use they in the singular, I can only say that it’s our language and we can use it however we want.

    My characters can split their infinitives left, right and centre, but I never will. They can, and do, start sentences with and or but. You will notice that I couldn’t bring myself to do so, even thought the previous sentence was the perfect opportunity.

    I think the chap with the card on the unused computer might have been making a comment on the intelligence of people using (relying on?) computers.

  2. Wow. I’m over 40 and didn’t know about these changes. But now that I do, I’m going to correct the way I have been doing things so I won’t give away my age. Haha.

  3. My 15 year old son and I were discussing the singular use of “they” the other day. We also discussed using “but” at the beginning of a sentence.
    Thank you for this blog post. I love it! 🙂

  4. God I must be over 150. I am trying with the double space though but am not sure I will ever grasp the concept of “they”. Sister Marie would be rolling in her grave.

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