Writers are told to follow the rules. After you have proved you can follow the rules, then and only then, may you break them.
If you have a high school diploma and a college degree, it can be assumed that you know the rules.
While I have a deep respect for English grammar, I believe we need to find that balance between discipline and creativity.
I dabbled for a time in cake decorating. There are basic rules and skills involved, and once you learn them you can become creative–even breaking the rules. For instance, the rule that layers of cake must be perfectly level can be beautifully broken:
Slaughterhouse-Five is considered a fantabulous book. And so it goes.
But don’t start a sentence with an AND.
And don’t use made-up words like fantablulous.
Why not? It’s well known that Shakespeare made up his own words. Eyeball, fashionable and manager are accredited to Shakespeare, along with over one thousand more.
So while publishers say that they are looking for the next great thing, they also are fearful of going out on a limb (to use a cliché, heavens!) of a first-time author who is bucking the trends and trying to give it to them.
Wanted: The next great, different story. Must also fit inside pre-ordained box. Must not color outside the lines.
And so it goes.
9 thoughts on “And so it goes: Breaking grammar rules, just ‘cuz.”
I’m a huge fan of breaking some rules! LOL! But, like baking…sometimes you gotta learn the recipe before you can start jacking with it, you know?
Courtney, you’re right, there is a balance between learning the rules and breaking them, but some rulez just beg to be jacked with, eh?!
They do indeed SueAnn…they do indeed! 😉
Sometimes seeing things from a different angle works out very well.
Hi Terri. I think another great example of this is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The purpose of the book was not to show that Stowe knew the rules of grammar. It was to bring to light the atrocities of slavery. What if she had written all her characters’ dialogues in perfect English? It might not have gotten the point across quite as well.
I love to write but the truth is I have terrible grammar, spelling and do not know where the punctuation goes or which ones to use most of the time. I always start sentences with And. And one of my favorite words is fantabulous LOL! 🙂 As far as cakes go I used to make a good living decorating cakes and when I first started I had a lot of lopsided cakes but I don’t think they were supposed to turn out that way and none as beautiful as the one you just posted. I have never been much of a rule follower and at this point in my life I am not sure I will ever start following them 🙂 I loved this post and it made me smile.
Hi T, thanks for visiting, I’m glad I made you smile. 🙂 I was quite the grammar nazi in my day; grammar rules came easily to me. Friends in High School and College used to ask me to help them write their term papers, and they always got an A. As I’m getting older, I’m trying to express emotion with more than stringent rules. Sometimes the words do the work, but I find that funky punctuation helps. Like the old song says, “You got to change with the times.” 😉
My dad’s college major was English grammar, and growing up I we played *fun grammar games*, like verb conjugations, pronoun references, etc. While it’s made me glaringly aware of people’s grammar mistakes, I think it’s great how writers are now free to use words and punctuation in their prose to emphasize their writing, or just to have fun (ie. glaringly aware).
I can still bring out the old grammar nazi when needed, but as I get older, I try to keep her in the closet more often. It’s amusing to read my own stuff a day or two later and find my own glaring errors. I loved your post about your dad’s funeral. You have a great gift of mixing humor with every day pain in your writing.