Embrace Your Writing Style: 9 Writing and Grammar Rules Worth Breaking

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Rules.

There are just so many of them.

I don’t just mean rules in the writing world. I’m talking about rules at home, college, work and even industry rules. It literally feels like everywhere we turn there’s someone waiting to say no.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that boundaries are necessary, especially in the realm of writing. But, what if people just bent the rules occasionally? Wouldn’t we have more diversity in style, tone and content?

When you're searching for your own voice, you can't always follow a set of guidelines. Click To Tweet

Sometimes, the desired effect just can’t be reached by sticking to those guidelines.

So, I’m going against the grain.

Why not break a few rules? Here are some to start with.

1. Start a sentence with “And”

Some people really can’t stand this but, as far as I’m aware, there aren’t any style or grammar guidelines that dictate: never start a sentence with a conjunction. You won’t be banished from the writing world.

Don’t worry about starting sentences with “and,” “but,” or any other conjunction.

2. Miss a comma

I think that commas are one of the most overused punctuation marks out there. While there are rules, people still use them subjectively.

Some people use commas as an indication of a pause in the sentence. If you’re in doubt about comma placement, remember to read the sentence back to yourself. If it doesn’t sound right, then take the time to consider whether you’ve overused some punctuation marks.

3. Be biased

You’re a person with an opinion. If you’ve taken the time to come up with an idea worth sharing with the world, your opinion will be valuable.

You shouldn’t be forceful, but you can’t always sit on the fence, either. Share your thoughts. Doing so may help someone!

4. Tell jokes

Don’t you love it when you stumble across an informative and witty article?

Having a sense of humor is unlikely to completely alter someone’s perception of you as a writer. Having a great sense of humor can also make you more memorable. In fact, if I read an article that can provide me with serious knowledge and make me laugh, consider me a subscriber.

5. Use cliches

I’ve always wondered why cliches are considered a bad thing. Consider them a set of universal truths.

Don’t be afraid to use them if they’re relevant to your writing. After all, good ideas are often recycled.

6. Throw in a dreaded adverb

You can’t paint everyone (or in this case, every word) with the same brush. An entire group of words shouldn’t be avoided. Adverbs exist for a reason and should be used when they’re the best option.

If you want to encourage diversity and creativity in your writing, you occasionally just have to go against the grain.

7. Say “yes” to incomplete sentences

This is a style choice. And if you like it…

Do it.

You may not want to make it a regular habit, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new once in a while. Incomplete sentences can add a bit of drama to your writing and allow you to emphasise a particular point.

8. Make it more personal  

When I say this, I mean don’t be afraid to include yourself in the story. Telling stories enables us to build stronger relationships with one another. You have an opportunity to connect with the audience and become a person that they can relate to.

Using “you” really can turn content from an article into a conversation; writing in first-person can make your story relatable. Your personal experiences make you a unique writer. Remember to call upon those experiences when they can help you tell the story.

9. Choose clarity over cleverness

Writing is all about communication. Using unnecessarily complicated language can create distance between you and the reader. You could completely alienate them or, worse, fail to get your point across. Remember, once you hit the “publish” button, there’s no way to check whether they’ve understood or not.

The key thing is to make sure that your message is clear — and maybe that’s the one rule you should never break!

What writing rules do you think are worth breaking?

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Jade is a blogger and marketing executive for a London based PR company. You can find her living in pockets of online communities scattered across the internet. She is also the co-founder of the #BizGalz twitter chat; a global community of women in business discussing current eve... .

The Life of a Working Girl | @lifeofaworkgirl

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Comments

  1. Great article, Jade. Useful reminders for both novice and experienced writers. Thank you 🙂

  2. Jade Phillips says:

    Thank you, Kevin! I’m glad that you enjoyed it 🙂

  3. Superb article!! I’m amazed at the number of writers who are chained to rules they learned for eighth grade composition. Reading a few books (or reading at them) on grammar and style can help free you from the fear of breaking the rules — for this reason, I think: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” (Quote attributed to everyone from Picasso to Einstein) Writing, at its best, is art (as Jade Phillips’ article demonstrates), and the best artists know the rules through and through and break them when they get in the way of a work’s highest form.

    • Jade Phillips says:

      Thank you, Tamara!

      I love that quote!! (storing it in my notebook). I definitely agree with you. Learn the rules so that you can break them with style. Writing is an art and in order to capture everyone’s unique voice, we have to have some freedom.

  4. Sometimes I think we forget that in our businesses we can do some of these things and break some of these “rules” and it can actually be helpful to do so.

  5. Jade, I LOVE this post. Thanks for making all this writin’ stuff less scary.

  6. Haha, no problem Mike! Sometimes you have to mix it up – writing should be fun, too!

  7. Great post Jade,
    And i couldn’t have agreed more on all your valuable points. Its always good to break a certain rule sometimes especially when you know that it will benefit you tremendously and that you will not be hurting anyone.

    Writing is one thing that everyone should do using his own style, its just a matter of ensuring that everything you’re saying falls in order.

    Trying to obey the rules sometimes will even land you to be confused and making some silly mistakes.

  8. As a pro editor, I’m always curious about these types of lists. Jade has come up with some great comments, and I heartily agree with many of them. Particularly in the realm of fiction writing. Non-fiction is very different, and in that case, I would throw out #7, definitely. Number 5 is the only one in the list that I absolutely disagree with: cliches are evidence of lazy thinking and lazy writing. Cliches make readers yawn and skim. Cliches lack originality, in every way, and they diminish the quality of a piece. Any “good idea” is worth expressing, but must be recycled in an original way, not in its original form.

    • Guy Riessen says:

      I would disagree. Five is an important tool, in particular when defining a character who stereotypes, actually thinks in cliched terms, or may be bigoted in general. I’ve come across plenty of real people who frequently drop cliches in their general conversation. Sure, simply describing something using a cliche is lazy writing…unless the perspective is from the POV of the cliche-dropping character, then it becomes a part of what defines them to the reader.

      All these rules are there to help writers keep their writing clear, concise and targeted, but they are not meant to be absolutes.

      You should break the rules when you have a goal in breaking them.

  9. Jade, perfect timing, I needed this. Your post has been claimed by my evernote.

    G

  10. Jessica Jacob-Turner says:

    I loved this Jade Phillips!

  11. That is quite some advice. Rules are meant to keep boundaries. However, they can be broken writing reason. You have clearly justified the breaking of the rules. And yea, the primary here is seeing you are communicating.

    Thanks Jade

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