Writing Rules

Writing Rules – Both Ways


There are so many rules for writing.  Not only do you have to know the meanings of the words you’re using to express your thoughts and feelings, but you also have to put all the words in the “correct” order, know how to spell the words, and know how to join them together “the right way” by using grammatical marks like commas, periods, and question marks.  Then you’ve got tons of other little marks to help readers know the mood of your writing.  There are exclamation marks, quotation marks, colons, semicolons, asterisks, parentheses, dashes, slashes, underscores, apostrophes, brackets, braces, and probably around twenty more I’ve never even seen before or don’t know the names of.

Then, in writing, there are all kinds of other things to help people understand your mental voice inflection, like bolding, italicizing, underlining, striking, double striking, and super and subscripts.  And as if that weren’t enough, you’ve got to memorize how to write all those confusing things like “Works Cited” pages and “Bibliographies” so you don’t get sued.

When you speak, you can express yourself effectively by your subconscious use of body language and tone variations.  I’ve heard that the actual speech aspect of language makes up only around 35% or less of the total act of effective communication.  The rest is facial expression, slight body adjustments, and rhythm and inflection of the voice.  So how do we get all that subtlety into written form?  Well, that’s why an effective writer has to know all those technical terms and be able to use them.  Otherwise, everything would be a jumble of impossible, meaningless marks on a piece of thin wood.

You can twist things around to make them feel a certain way for readers, but you will most likely get your message across more effectively if you can use all of those subtleties appropriately; not necessarily correctly – but appropriately.  Try your best to express it the way you think it, and people won’t have to read it out loud to understand what you’re telling them.

There is a pretty big loophole in the rules of the North American English language, though.  All of these laws are really less like requirements and more like suggested guidelines.  It’s nice how you can’t really stick to one voice to tell an interesting story.  This gives you a chance to add some variety to an otherwise plain writing style.  If you followed all the rules exactly, people would probably be able to understand your meaning well enough.

However, once you know the rules, you can break them – effectively.

26 February 2008

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