Scattered among my more lofty goals in life, such as changing the church and getting people to listen to the sounds of trees, are two grammar quests. Yes, that’s right. I have grammar quests, two words that aren’t usually found together in any kind of meaningful way other than to artificially promote some kind of test. My quests are not tests, but rather goals. They are changes I’d like to see happen in the way we write and speak.

The first is a more lofty goal, and limited. Lofty because I have less chance of seeing it happen and limited because it’s not as much something for the broad language of English as much as it is something for that American brand, and focused on the writing of it. It bugs me to no end to see periods within quotation marks, when the quotes are themselves the entire sentences. I’m talking about this “kind of thing.” Clearly, the quote is not containing the period. The period is in reference to the whole sentence, not the quoted portion, and so the period should be outside of the quotes. Those in Britain are smart and invented this language and so know what I’m talking about. Americans are a silly people and like their periods inside the quotation marks no matter how or why or to what extent the quote is used. Almost makes me want to put a Canadian flag on all my luggage so that when I travel people won’t look at me askance expecting me to always, without regard to use or context, put periods inside a quotation mark.

This is American arrogance, however, and thus likely to not change.

The second is, I think much more approachable, and in fact not only a quest but a present foray. I was told by my editor that ‘he or she’ will replace each usage of ‘their’ in my book. Well, not every usage. Just those times I use ‘their’ as a gender neutral singular pronoun. Grammar authoritarians may get all huffy and puffy about it, but the fact is that their as a singular pronoun is perfectly fine English, makes total sense to all but the most nincompoopish among us, and frankly is a lot less cumbersome.

Think I’m wrong and a barbarian at the grammar gates? I offer you, in evidence, Jane Austen, and others.

I have a feeling I’m going to lose this argument with my editor, but I’m giving it a go. For the sake of my book, and for the sake of good, common sense, English.

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