When to Not Be A Part of the Grammar Police

We’re back in action! Sorry for last week. I just realized that I was running myself ragged trying to juggle everything at the same time. I haven’t had the chance to write for some time, but I’m hoping to get back into action today.

I did realize that there were things at my home in NC that distracted me from my writing, so when I got back over the weekend I took the time to eliminate the things that were keeping me from focusing wholly on my writing. I like to play some games with my husband, but I found that several were drawing more of my energy than was necessary. So, out they went. I knew it was going to be good for me when I didn’t even miss them while I was home.

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Now, on to the post for this week. I was up late last night because my sleep schedule is just completely out of whack and I was trying to come up with a snazzy topic for today. I was on Pinterest and I saw stuff about being part of the grammar police. Come to think of it, I saw a mug with that on it at a bookstore the other day…

Anyhow, I think it’s great that people are just as committed as I am to striking out instances of poorly written prose, but I think that writers stand at a certain precipice with grammar.

Think about it: if your like me you’ll find the issue in this sentence I just wrote 😉

That is just sloppy writing, and that is where I would say that a second or third read through of a manuscript would be warranted.

Now, there are instances where a sentence fragment or a sentence that starts with a preposition can highlight something important.

Say you’ve maintained perfect grammar for the entirety of your story thus far but you really, really want to bring attention to a specific point, figure, or plot point. If you were to suddenly, and deliberately, change your writing style by throwing in something that doesn’t grammatically fit with your usual style, your readers should notice.

Anything that breaks the norm will naturally draw attention to itself. Even in your writing. I’ve put some famous examples down below to of authors doing just that.

 

Starting a sentence with a conjunction

william faulkner

Frequent user: William Faulkner
Example: “He had never seen a home, so there was nothing for him to say about it. And he was not old enough to talk and say nothing at the same time.” from Light in August

 

Run-on sentences

charles dickens

Frequent user: Charles Dickens
Example: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” from A Tale of Two Cities

 

Double negatives

jane austen

Frequent user: Jane Austen
Example: “She owned that, considering every thing, she was not absolutely without inclination for the party.” from Emma

**The above examples were pulled from an article by Huffington Post, and you can find the original article here.

 

That said, you need to establish that you know the rules of grammar before you go running around and breaking them. I almost always double or triple check my grammar because I tend to second guess myself. The website PurdueOwl is my best friend.

For me, figuring out when and how to use break the rules takes some trial and error. I’ve tried it in certain areas of my current manuscript, and it just isn’t hitting the right feeling that I want.

And just because you can break the rules doesn’t mean that you should. Some works might not need the rules to be broken. I think it should be used on a case by case basis. Just know that you have the option as a writer to play with language.

It’s what we do, and if anyone should be allowed to play around with the rules I like to think it should be us.

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