My biggest issue with writing advice sites is that every one of them purports to be an “expert.” Naturally, I’m an expert too. Ha.
Look, writing is pretty basic—a simple, coherent sentence that doesn’t flaunt bad grammar.
There ya go, now send me $100US, please! Message for my mailing address. Thank you!
Recently, I read a blog post about seven rules you can break, or don’t stress over, or something like that. Don’t remember, because I see stuff like this all the time. Oh, wait—I remember, it used the word “bogus” in the title.
Okay, first of all, the writer is an English prof, so maybe you should listen to him. Maybe. By the way, this came out over a year ago and is making the rounds again. Oh, and he’s also written a few books. No idea how well they’re doing, haven’t had time to check. You can, though. Google him, Amazon him, whatever. Let me know. Or not.
Back to the topic at hand:
Infinitives. Phht. Whatever. If it sounds right, split if you want to; if your editor changes it, please don’t cry. Editors have their own way of doing things. Sometimes they’re right. If they’re wrong on infinitives, they’re probably wrong on other things too.
Prepositions: I typically change a sentence to NOT end in a preposition, unless it’s dialogue. Why? Because I was taught NOT to do that; however, I was also raised with people who commonly asked, “Where are you at?” It’s a colloquialism, not exactly “bad grammar.” There’s a difference, kinda like dropping your Gs or saying “warsh” for “wash.”
Frankly, even as a child, I thought that extra R was ridiculous, and I trained myself not to use it.
So, next up, we have “which.” Which what? Again, I agree with the blog writer. Use whatever sounds best and move on.
Starting a sentence with a conjunction? No problem, unless you still a comma after said conjunction. This is often used for effect, but with a comma—ack! NO!
You do NOT ALWAYS have to “show not tell.” Silly rule. You’re a storyteller, after all! On the other hand, it’s usually always better to say, “I got ready for bed” instead of “I decided to” or “I started to.” Use things like “she walked,” “he did,” “they went,” and so forth.
Verb tense can be tricky. Ran into this myself not long ago. “A group,” “a bunch,” and “my family” all denote a collection of individuals, even though they all obviously are singular items. Because of this, in spite of the singularity, I will always use a plural verb: a group were, a bunch were, my family were. Remember, a collection of individuals, ergo, plural peeps. So go with the plural verb. Period.
Old versus new meanings. You can easily start an Internet argument about any of the words the blog writer uses as examples. Ignore it. Use whatever you like, if it works for you. If your editor is a stickler, she’ll change it. Argue at your peril.
Last and done: the blog writer “could care less.” Well then, he cares more than he lets on—get it? This one drives me nuts.
Thankfully, however, he ignored The Great Oxford Comma debate. Whew! Dodged a bullet there!
So here’s the deal:
Make sure your writing is as correct as it can be, and wait for the red pen. Because it will come. Maybe you can successfully defend your choices. Good luck!
This blog really hit home for me this week. I can’t imagine why. 😉 Thanks for being gentle with the red pen!