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Crowd-Sourcing Your Grammar

Language has a mind of its own. Grammar gurus and dictionaries can try to hold back the crush of new words, ungrammatical constructions, and so on. But it’s a losing battle. What really matters is what you hear on TV, at the water cooler, or out of your teenager’s mouth. It isn’t always standard usage, but should you care? 


In a word, yes.


To illustrate, let’s look at the two sentences below. Which one do you find acceptable?

  1. She gave the book to he and I. (also ‘him and I,’ ‘him and myself.’)

  2. She gave the book to him and me. (Standard usage.)

If you take off the word ‘he’ in sentence A, it becomes ‘She gave the book to I.’ Does it sound OK? No. But it doesn’t matter to most people. They hear ‘between he and I,’ assume it’s correct, and pass that usage along. Poof! You’ve just seen crowd-sourcing in action.


In fact, ‘between he and I’ has become so prevalent that it begins to sound weird to hear the standard form in sentence B. We tend to copy the way others speak, especially if we want to be included in that group. The more that form is used by your peers, the more likely it is to overtake the standard form.


Which form should you use—the one that is “correct” according to grammarians or the one you hear all the time? In fact, sometimes using the correct form can make you sound like a stuffed shirt in the eyes of those who never hear the standard usage. We at Business Writing That Counts! recommend using the standard form, at least in your written communication. If you worry you’ll sound too la-de-da, then rephrase the sentence to get rid of that construction.


Grammar class is dismissed—for now. Check with Business Writing That Counts! on this and all matters grammatical by calling 425.485.3221.


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