Call me a rebel, a rule-breaker or an iconoclast.
OK, don’t. As a career editor, I can be quite a stickler for grammatical standards and proper usage of the English language. Blame it on my parentage. My dad (bless his heart) still corrects me, if I mix up “can” and “may.”
Imagine this scene:
“Can I have some more juice, please?”
“Well, you certainly may, if you ask properly.”
Occasionally, exceptions can be excellent.
Sometimes, a little poetic license can go a long way. I’ve purposely penned mechanically incorrect phrasings and created contractions from words that were never meant to be melded.
Maybe you have intentionally crossed the boundaries of correct communications as well.
Call it creativity or art. Dub it distinctive disobedience. Just don’t try it with an editor.
When can writers break through boundaries without causing offense?
I’ve heard it said that it takes a certain level of expertise for a writer to know when to break the rules and when to stay inside the boundaries of correctness.
Perhaps true creativity demands a certain determined defiance, something akin to the rebellious attitude of a toddler in the middle of his “terrible twos” stage, peeking through a fence and wanting more than anything to break through to the other side.
Consider this witty explanation from writing guru William Safire, who made a professional career out of executive speechwriting, journalism and writing instruction. Heck, Safire won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Sometimes freedom applies to the words we write.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
- If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
- Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
- Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
- De-accession euphemisms.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
(From: "Great Rules of Writing")
Now, get out there, and stick your own stamp on your poetry, prose, or other creative writing!
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Child at Fence photo by Tony Wills
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