Rules, I don’t need no stinkin’ rules…
As another semester starts, I’m faced with the ever impossible task of explaining to my students why writing rules are important. They want to know why we have them in the first place. Isn’t writing subjective? What about author’s choice? These are all questions that come up every year. And I sympathize, really, but there is method to the madness.
When I was in school, I didn’t get the rules either. But the grammar gods have shared a bit of wisdom with me (not much, but a smidge). As far as I can tell, there are two main reasons to follow writing guidelines, especially as a beginner:
- Communication. The whole point of writing, any writing, is to communicate a thought with readers. By following the rules, you help ensure that what you want to say won’t get mixed up in the translation.
- Ethos. The Greeks knew early on that people are more likely to believe you, thus listen to what that you have to say, if you are credible (ethos). Example: read the two sentences below…
- See what were gonna do now is operate on you’re brain if ya survive without complications you should recovers fully.
- Mr. Brown, we must operate before the tumor in your brain causes permanent damage. We have every hope that you will make a full recovery, but there are certain risks of which we need to make you aware.
I don’t know about y’all, but there is no way I’d let writer number one operate on brain no matter what kind of credentials he had.
As far as author’s license, and stifling creativity, a writer has to know the rules before s/he can break them. Stopping for a red light happens to be a law in our country. Only people who know the law (and the reasons for its existence) can determine whether or not they are willing to deal with the consequences that go along with ignoring it. Writing might not create such devastation, but then again history shows how much power words have.
I’ve been blogging for over a year now, but the subjects of my posts have been random and a bit flighty while I try to find my niche. My goal for 2010 is to create a site that’s helpful to people who want to better their writing (while I throw in an occasional movie review or random thought). Like I said before, I’m not a grammar god, far from it. But hopefully what I do know (and learn as I continue my own writing process) will help some fellow lost soul.
Join me tomorrow for writing rule number one.