Writing rules: Why it’s not wrong to ignore them

by Carl Natale on April 15, 2011

Follow the write rulesI confess that I never have read an Elmore Leonard book or story. That’s not a judgment. There are thousands of authors I haven’t read who deserve my time. But I can’t get to them.

And something tells me I need to pick up a Leonard book. One of the reasons is that he is quite prolific with writing advice. He’s not shy about explaining his style.

And I like his advice. This paragraph sums up 10 tips he gave in a New York Times column on writing:

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

via WRITERS ON WRITING – WRITERS ON WRITING – Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle – Series – NYTimes.com.

This is what I’m trying to say when I tell people not to worry about using perfect grammar. I’m not suggesting you embrace poor writing. This is about writing in a way that connects with readers.

And sometimes proper grammar gets in the way. But too much improper grammar obscures your point.

Yes, it’s an undefined gray area. Map it out. Keep writing and getting feedback on it.

And read Leonard’s tips. They’re all about the audience. And that’s more important than dedication to proper grammar.

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