I find some great literary authors exhausting. Jane Austen was among them.
I used to think all her heroines were pathetic. All they did was pine away for haughty men who barely knew they existed and treated them badly anyway.
Fuck Mr. Darcy and his character arc.
He wasn’t noble at heart until it suited him — when he could get in Elizabeth’s trousers. And come to think of it, fuck Elizabeth for falling for it.
They deserve each other.
But one day, an English teacher told me that I should read it as satire. Right about that time, Clueless debuted (a funny take on Emma), and my perspective changed.
I love the way she ridicules that century’s view of her gender.
It wasn’t until I dug into Jane’s writing that I realized she was a grammar rebel.
Jane set an honorable precedent by breaking this rule alongside many other famous authors.
Gender rules are so old school.
In the 18th century, the logicians of English grammar randomly decided that singular masculine pronouns should always be used in indefinite expressions: “Will everyone remove his hat?”
Care to guess how this came about? (Hint – they were all men.)
If famous authors broke this grammar rule, so can you. This is an outdated rule because you don’t always know the gender of the person you’re writing about.
Why you should break the rule:
First, the notion of gender has evolved (just like grammar). In an effort to be inclusive, never assign a label unless you definitely know someone’s gender.
Second, using “he or she” and “his and her” is awkward phrasing in advertising copy. Even Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage concedes:
“The plural pronoun is one solution devised by native speakers of English to a grammatical problem inherent in that language – and it is by no means the worst solution.”
Back this statement up with an example of a wildly successful ad campaign: Honda Civic’s, “To each their own.”
Honda Civic buyers didn’t care about the grammar rules.
In fact, the company’s profit margin increased from 2.98% in March 2012 to 3.62% in September 2012 – the same time the campaign ran.
So clearly the grammar mistake didn’t affect the bottom line. Probably because nobody on the planet gives a crap about whether this is grammatically correct. “But are they following the rules of the English language?” is rarely a question a prospect asks before buying a car.