06 August 2012

Rule Blinkers

Every so often I run across a critique of someone's writing slating the piece for daring to begin sentences with conjunctions (and, but, etc).  And I look at my novels, proudly flourishing buts in every direction, shrug my shoulders, and go on exactly as before.

I write for clarity.  For pace.  For impact.  I will use sentence fragments.  I will gaily lavish any number of adverbs.  I will spit and hiss, answer, whisper, fill the air with said-bookisms.

So long as it works.

On every writing site or forum I've come across different lists of 'rules' - many of them incorrect (look at a few language usage texts and you'll see there's no rule against beginning sentences with 'and' or 'but').  Once you have a basic understanding of the tools you're using to express yourself, it's well worth checking 'received wisdom': too often it doesn't ring true.

Edit to remove ambiguity, to add emotional impact.  Make sure the words flow.  Cut the extraneous.  But don't clunk up your prose keeping to an arbitrary list of what some person on the internet thinks is 'good' writing.


  1. Amen Andrea. Students write to please their teachers. Writers write for emotional impact.

    The best, brightest, most powerful paragraph I ever read was written by William Gibson in _Virtual Light_. Here it is in its entirety:

    "Key. Ignition."

  2. Word.

    Antares, I love that Gibson bit. He's great at those.


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