In the past few weeks, I’ve stumbled upon articles that suggest a person forget the basic rules of writing, grammar, and punctuation. The authors suggest that a person should focus on voice at the expense of those rules. I can’t argue against the necessity of voice – it is important – but I can argue against forgetting the basic rules.
I’ve been thinking about how to make my case because readers could argue that I’m prejudiced. Of course I’m for the rules; I’m Write Right. I have a red pen. I threaten people with that pen via the chibified version of myself.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to make a good case because of that bias, but I’ll try my best. I believe in the rules and in learning the rules because they help a person to broadcast his or her voice. They turn something incoherent into something that makes sense and can be understood by others. The rules do not exist to limit a person’s creativity; they exist to give it a form, to give it meaning. The rules bring order to the chaos that often fills the brain and the page.
It isn’t that those rules can’t be broken. They can be. They should be. They should not, however, be broken because it’s “cool” or because of “voice.” If the rules are going to be broken, a better justification needs to be given. Creative license isn’t going to do it. I need to know why a person is breaking the rules. I need to know how that disregard of the rules enhances the voice. If I can’t discover those things or the author can’t explain the why or the how, the explanation doesn’t matter. It’s simply an excuse, not a reason.
Do you think the rules are important? Why or why not?
Photo: Crashmaster007 (CC BY-NC 2.0)