I 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 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.)
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.