5 Grammar Rules You Don’t Actually Need To Follow

We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that your online writing and casual conversations don’t follow every single grammar rule. (In fact, do your text messages or Instagram comments follow any rules at all?) And that’s OK, because the way you speak with your friends or communicate online is not meant to sound quite as formal as, say, an essay or published newspaper article.

In part, that’s because much of our online communication mimics our conversation styles, and we ignore grammar rules while we speak all the time. Naturally, there are grammar rules we all follow in more formal writing, but what rules have become outdated in the way we speak and use social media?

Here are a few examples of grammar rules you can feel free to ignore in casual chats and conversations. But we have to warn you: because language is rapidly evolving, even this list may be outdated soon—stay tuned!

1. It’s fine to use like, um, ya know

If you’ve ever taken a public speaking class, you know that like, um, and you know are phrases non grata. That’s because they’re considered filler words, which are mainly used to fill in the blanks while your brain is working on what to say next. The goal of most professional speakers (and the classes that they offer to help others become professional speakers) is to train your brain to remove them from your vocabulary. While those words are often unwanted in formal communication, they do have a time and a place.

In text messaging, informal conversation, and while chatting on the internet, like, um, and you know are all perfectly acceptable to use since they mimic normal speech patterns. Many people add them into messages because they recreate the personal and spontaneous feel of face-to-face communication. Since most of us communicate digitally these days, those words are perfectly welcome in tweets, posts, and DMs. As long as you’re not giving a speech or interviewing for a job, you can feel confident ignoring the lifelong ban on those conversational filler words. You know what we mean?

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2. You can substitute who for whom 

Your high school English teacher likely taught you the appropriate time to use who and whom. He probably even used a catchy little tune that he sang at the start of every class of your senior year. And now, every time you think about who or whom, you hum, “he for who, and whom for him” until you know which one you need to use … no, that’s just us? Okay, then.

If you don’t have a lifelong membership to the “he for who” club, you may struggle to remember when you should use each one. Well, the good news is that it doesn’t really matter. Since so many people struggle with the correct usage, a lot of people have just given up on whom all together.

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If you find yourself going back and forth over which word to use, you can go with the less formal who, or rephrase your sentence altogether to avoid having to use either. For example, if you want to ask, “With whom will we meet?” to find out the name of the person you will be seeing, you can rephrase your question as, “Which person is meeting us?” This version not only removes the who vs. whom issue, but also rolls of the tongue (and fingertips) a little bit better.

3. TBH, those acronyms can stand alone

Popular acronyms appear in texting, social media posts, and even in some conversations (internet-savvy people have been saying “BRB” when they leave the room since AOL away messages were all the rage). Because acronyms are so prevalent, we know what most of them mean. LOL, TBD, and OMG are all common enough that they really need no explanation when they are used.

In formal writing, style rules often dictate that an acronym is spelled out the first time it appears. For example: The diver was outfitted in his self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear before he entered the water.

How strange would it look if you followed this rule during texting? “Oh my god (OMG) mom, that was so funny I actually laughed out loud (LOL)” is a lot more to type out than “OMG mom that was so funny I actually LOL’d.”

Can you imagine how long your Facebook posts and text messages would be if everyone followed these rules? Instead, we opt for the shorter path so that we can quickly (and easily, since we’re often limited on both characters and thumb speed) exchange information with one another.

BTW, for formal writing, or any time you are relaying information that is not common knowledge, your best bet is to use the traditional rules for acronyms.

Hey, what’s the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation, though? Let’s find out!

4. Between you and I is also OK

You’ve probably been told all your life that the correct grammar is between you and me. This is because the preposition (between) should be followed by an object pronoun, which is me. Me is the object pronoun of I. But informal writing makes use of between you and I quite frequently, and there are those grammarians who also make the case for the use of this phrase in more formal instances too.

This is one case of a rule that’s been broken for centuries (Surprised?). Of course, there’s also the variation between me and you, which is even more casual (and typically not used in formal writing).

5. Go ahead and start a sentence with a conjunction

English teachers everywhere spent a great deal of time and energy trying explaining why we should avoid those dreaded sentences that start with a conjunction (the small class of words that serve as connectors and include like, and, because, but, and however). But, did you know that for the most part, that rule has become a thing of the past? (See what we did there?)

Other than in very formal writing or when following certain style guides, the rule against beginning sentences with a conjunction has mostly gone away. This is largely because it was never actually a rule in the first place. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, a “substantial” portion of sentences—maybe up to 10 percent—begin with conjunctions, and “It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

Did you hear that? Feel free to start your sentences with because, so, and but. There is literally no rule against it!

Now for the ultimate grammar debate: is the Oxford comma necessary? Check out these examples and decide.