That’s right. Everything you learned in your English class is a farce.
Ok, not really, but consider what exactly grammar rules are: a set of acceptable communication practices determined by a bunch of (white) men. Not knowing the rules is seen as ignorance, not applying them as indolence, breaking them as insolence.
Frankly, it’s elitist, racist, and, in many cases, sexist.
I argue, and I mention it a lot because it effects the world so significantly, language is changing due to technology and globalization. More than ever, peoples of varying origins, intelligence, skill level, and maturity are coming together in this massive forum and speaking. We’ve seen OMG and LOL become part of our regular vocabulary, but that’s just the beginning.
Anyway, I digress.
Writers in this new era are finding more effective ways of communicating that may or may not follow the rules of grammar. For instance:
- Beginning a sentence with a conjunction. And not even caring about it.
- Using punctuation for dramatic effect, which is So. Last. Year.
- Using contractions even when you’re writing formally.
- The singular “they” (which everyone has always used whether they admit it or not).
- Ending sentences with prepositions, which was formally unheard of.
- Incomplete sentences. Whenever. Wherever.
- Run on sentences that are intended for humor or purposely overwhelming the reader so they understand just how important the statement is.
- Double negatives that don’t invalidate the positive.
Even some of the rules I have addressed in this series have exceptions.
- That can be used to soften language, maintain cadence, and avoid confusion in a way that seems almost undetectable.
- In my opinion and very can usually be left out, but both can be vital to emphasizing for the sake of simplicity. In my opinion, if something is very important, using essential or crucial may not have the desired impact.
- Sometimes you need to give the reader a break. There are many ways to do this, but using there are and this is and it is are conversational and soft.
The rules for effective writing are firm, but pliable. The key is communication. Are you effectively communicating? How do you know?
Once you’ve set your audience and goals, you can better determine which rules to follow and which to break and when. What do you want them to think or not think? Who do you want them to think the speaker is? How engaged do you want your reader to be? What voice do you want to have?
Write intentionally. Know the power of each word. Understand how every word and letter works in context. Continue learning about the meaning of words and word combinations.
Seems like such a waste to learn how to write only to unlearn it, but learning only to defy can be transferred. How else would we get great works of art, inventions, discoveries and revolutions?
Someone wasn’t satisfied with the rules someone else made, and they broke them. But most of the time they knew the inside of the box well before they thought outside it.