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12 Grammar Rules That Could Go Extinct in the Next Decade

Basically, it's a full-throttle, grammar-busting, free-for-all in the next decade. GeT ReAdY 2 bReaK mo' RuLz. Punctuation purists beware!

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Red pencil standing out from crowd of plenty identical black fellows on white table. Leadership, uniqueness, independence, initiative, strategy, dissent, think different, business success conceptmegaflopp/Shutterstock

Get ready grammar rebels

Do you still have rules about “proper” grammar imprinted in your head? Do you remember “sentence fragment!” or “split infinitive!” in red ink in the margins of your papers? You can probably let go of some of those rules as they adapt and evolve along with culture. “Language never stops changing,” according to Brittney Ross, writer and editor at Grammarly. “It’s not like somebody sends out a software update every few centuries and suddenly we go from English: Shakespeare Edition to English: Twitter Edition.” Social media and smartphones inspired “textese,” while constant cultural evolution sparks shifts that change what’s “proper.” “It takes effort to stay engaged and learn about changes as they’re happening, but the payoff is that you end up with a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the way language interacts with our lives and relationships we have with each other,” Ross explains. Read on for the grammar rules that may change in the next decade and here’s 12 that have already shifted for good.

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text best. pizza. ever. on blue

Period use is evolving. Period.

Social media conventions have already made major changes to grammar rules. Good. Job. Internet. The period is used as a social cue that changes meaning—especially if you leave it off. But you can also use it for emphasis. “The Internet has given rise to a lot of new and really interesting writing conventions that at first glance might look like random mistakes,” Ross says. “For example, you might notice someone on Twitter putting a period after each word in a sentence, like this: Best. Pizza. Ever. You’d lose points for writing that way in a school essay, but in the right context (like Twitter), writing that way conveys strong emphasis on each word. It’s not a random mistake—it’s intentional and consistent.” Speaking of Twitter, did you know the proper name for the hashtag is “octothorpe?” Learn the origins of “octothorpe” and more weird facts about punctuation.

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text it's its on blue

Proper apostrophe usage is likely dead already

Reporting for BBC News, Holly Honderich describes how the founder of “The Apostrophe Protection Society” announced that “ignorance and laziness” prevailed, causing him to cease his campaign to defend the punctuation mark’s proper use. The announcement, however, sparked a huge uptick in interest in the oft-misused apostrophe. The most frequent misuse occurs when inserting an apostrophe in “it’s” when you really mean “its.” The apostrophe signals the conjunction “it is,” so writing “the volcano blew it’s top” when you mean “its top” causes ire to grammar purists. Apostrophes are most often used with contractions and possessive nouns. Using them incorrectly, as in “the mistake is your’s,” is a great way to frustrate readers. Be careful! You may be judged harshly for this relatively common grammar mishap until it’s—whoops!—its misuse becomes more accepted. You’ll also want to know these 11 irregular plural words that sound completely wrong—but aren’t.

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text Latinx on blue

Gender-neutral identifiers will become the norm

Recently, the AP Stylebook added “guidance about the gender-neutral term ‘Latinx’.” The term replaces the masculine and feminine identifiers Latino and Latina with a term inclusive of folks (or folx) who identify as nonbinary or genderfluid. “The AP’s current recommendation is to use the term Latinx for people who request it as an identifier for themselves and to provide a brief explanation of the term for readers who are unfamiliar with it,” Ross explains. “As Latinx appears more frequently in more outlets, the need for that explanation will diminish, as it has for other words over the years.” Here’s why you need to stop using “ladies and gentlemen” along with other etiquette advice for the modern world.

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text her him them hen on blue

Proper pronoun use will be guided by personal preference

“A guiding principle that’s already present in major style guides is that when you’re writing about someone else, you should use the identifiers (such as Latinx) and pronouns that the person wants you to use—treating someone with respect is never a grammatical mistake,” Ross says. According to Pew Research, “young adults and Democrats are more likely than older Americans and Republicans to express comfort” with gender-neutral pronouns. Research on Swedish language speakers, who introduced the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” in 2012, suggests that such usage creates positive change around inclusivity and acceptance in a culture. On the other hand, these are 11 spelling and grammar rules no one can agree on.

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text here to stay on blue

deliberate lowercase usage will take over

It’s becoming acceptable to disable your smart phone’s automatic capitalization in favor of communicating in all lowercase letters. Jess Joho at Mashable explains that using all lowercase is “almost more of a way of life than just a trend,” and predicts the online tendency will grow in the future. The deliberate use of lowercase doesn’t fundamentally alter meaning, and it adds nuance. As Joho puts it, “Autocaps is tired, no caps is wired.” Also, judicious and meaningful uses of capitalization now goes far beyond its conventional use at the beginning of sentences and to signal proper nouns. Memorize these 10 group texting etiquette rules that will keep you from being annoying.

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text no wayyyy on blue

Repeat letters for emphasis—it’s fiiiiine

Online culture continuously adapts and rebels against proper punctuation in ways that may seem egregious, but that actually communicate efficiently. Grammar rules are malleable and signal adaptation to a changing world. The advent of digital culture went appropriately hog-wild with rule-breaking, abbreviations, misspellings, and various outlaw punctuation moves with the advent of texting and posting, lol. Getting the message across becomes more important than following staid grammar rules. “When someone is intentionally using language conventions this way, and their intended audience understands exactly what they’re doing, that’s not a mistake—that’s effective writing,” Ross shares. To stay current, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the 25 words added to the dictionary in 2019.

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text !!!! on blue

The exclamation mark will indicate courtesy!!!!

The exclamation mark has evolved beyond its standard usage at the end of an exclamatory sentence. Previously, one was considered plenty to indicate basic surprise or forceful emotions; however, “textese” and email created rules that made the exclamation mark an indicator of basic courtesy and empathy. In one example, a wife responded to her husband’s text “ok” with “Are you mad at me?” when he left off the exclamation mark. In business emails, the use of the exclamation mark doesn’t indicate “force” so much as common courtesy after sentences like “I’m looking forward to our meeting!” Writing something similar without an exclamation mark can seem dry and unenthusiastic. Though people have criticized this punctuation mark’s overuse, it’s also been called an indicator of emotional intelligence. If you love to use exclamation marks, you’ll die over the “irony mark!!!” Here it is, along with 11 more little-known punctuation marks to add extra flair to your texts!

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text LiKe tHiS on blue

Capital usage is for conveying MEANING

Writing for Mashable, Nicole Gallucci explains that capitalization has evolved from being for the beginning of sentences and indicators for proper nouns into a continuing trend where “over the past few years an increasing number of Extremely Online individuals have invented a series of new capitalization uses that don’t play by the rules set out by English teachers and style guides.” Alternating caps, LiKe tHiS, indicate mocking, and also convey a “secret code”—for emphasis, creativity, and to get closer to the point. While these rebellious uses seem to veer from propriety, they also create new legitimate forms of writing and meaning. As Ross points out, “Shifts in language affect everyone! English belongs to everyone who speaks it or is learning to speak it, after all. There are always going to be people who scoff at any deviation from what they consider to be ‘proper’ grammar, but that’s a pretty simplistic way to think about language.”

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text :) :) :) on blue

Emojis are here to stay :)

Emojis indicate emphasis, add flourish, and they’ve become an integrated part of online language and grammar. “In school, we tend to learn about grammar as a set of black-and-white rules, but the truth is, those rules are ultimately just helpful conventions, Ross says. “If you put a question mark at the end of a sentence, I understand what it means because we’ve all generally agreed to use question marks in that way—it’s not because of some inherent magical property of the symbol itself.” Emojis are symbols that exist as “gestures” that mimic body language, according to Ashley Dean at CPR News. Emojis add nuance and agreement in a wide range of emotions such as sarcasm, cuteness, and irritation.

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text y6t$%rfdegh on blue

Keysmash (asdf$dji*%skd) will continue to evolve

In an interview with NPR, Linguist Gretchen McCulloch, author of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, explains that grammar changes are “emergent” and are more about connections between people than the old rules that linked proper grammar with superiority. McCulloch explains the growing trend to indicate frustration, “keysmash” as “when you mash your fingers against a keyboard to, you know, convey this incoherent emotion…There are real linguistic trends to keysmash—even something that looks so random.” McCulloch describes the different random letters that emerge on a keyboard verses a smartphone and describes that the phenomenon is not exactly random. Most people edit their keysmash so it looks just right to convey their emotion. Not all keysmashes are intentional, including these 11 most expensive typos ever made.

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text I'm being serious on blue

Verbs are getting more passive and more progressive

You’ve probably heard writing rules about using present tense verbs and spare sentences; English teachers usually advise that you use the least words possible when writing. Arika Okrent, at Mental Floss, suggests that the progressive form of verbs—when you use the “ing” to indicate an ongoing action—is steadily increasing over time, as in “‘I’m being serious vs. ‘I’m serious.'” Okrent also describes an uptick in the rise of the passive verb form with “get,” as in “they got robbed” or “she got fired.” The form often shows up to describe situations that are “bad news” or “give some kind of benefit.” We got grammared! Ready for some tense verb fun? Here are 20 grammar jokes for word nerds.

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text I woke up and dove in on blue

“Woke” and “dove” are increasingly preferred verb forms

Linguists used to think that grammar evolved in line with a general desire to create emphasis, however, recent research reported in the Guardian makes claims that adaptations in language conventions are also due to “random chance,” and “resistance is futile.” However, some changes in preferences for certain verb forms are a result of “active preference.” According to the study, “‘woke’ is increasingly preferred over ‘waked’ and ‘lit’ more popular than ‘lighted’, while ‘weaved’ and ‘snuck’ are on track to eventually overtake ‘wove’ and ‘sneaked’, respectively. Likewise, “dove” is now much more popular than “dived.” Read on to discover 10 grammar “rules” you can safely ignore.

Molly Pennington, PhD
Molly is a writer and professional astrologer with a PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. She covers the zodiac, books, movies, TV, and culture for She loves puns, puzzles, people, the planet Mars, and philosophizing.