Sixty second writing tips: rule-breaking gives your writing style – but avoid swill

Good writing pivots on good grammar. And, sometimes, creative use of grammatical rule-breaking. Like starting a sentence with a conjunction.

1195430130203966891liftarn_Writing_My_Master_s_Words_svg_medThe purpose of breaking grammar rules is to lend an edge to your personal style, to set your work apart from others. But not to lose the meaning. The trick is knowing which ones to break. Break the wrong ones, and you’ll simply be treated as inept.

Rules not to break are the ones that create clarity – that are there for purpose.  The ones that can be broken are those that don’t change meaning. For example, it’s OK to begin sentences with conjunctions, as I did earlier and which is a pretty common advertising technique.

Other favourites of mine include one-word sentences (which I have a LOT of trouble getting past publishers’ editorial ‘fixes’) and occasional long list-style sentences. Tolkien was good at these, too, when he described his Middle Earth settings. Used sparingly, they can be effective. And that, I guess, is the other point about style from rule breaking – it has to be sparing. Otherwise the effect’s lost.

Do you have a favourite grammar rule to break?

 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013


5 thoughts on “Sixty second writing tips: rule-breaking gives your writing style – but avoid swill

  1. I’m great at starting a sentence with a conjunction. ‘But’ and ‘yet’ are my two favorite, occasionally an ‘and’ slips in. My second worse problem is overuse of the words ‘just’ and ‘still’; the third, too many commas. I tend to put commas after ‘but’ and ‘yet’ when they start a sentence, but I noticed you didn’t.
    I know what you mean about getting past the editor’s prerogative. I tried to use ‘go’ for ‘went’ with a Spanish character. My editor could not understand what I was doing and kept changing it. I finally changed the character.

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