Most things that we do in life have certain rules that pertain to them. For instance, there are speed limits and other rules of the road when we’re driving. There are rules that govern us when we’re in school, and also when we move on to the workplace. But what about writing? Are there certain strictures we should follow when we’re creating worlds and laying out lines of poetry?
Generally, I think there are some rules when it comes to writing. I believe pretty strongly in grammar, so I try my best to stick to those rules. There are, of course, more shady areas of grammar such as the serial (oxford) comma, where people’s opinions differ. But there are definitely some hard and fast rules that I think most writers should abide by. But what about poets? Poets typically ignore grammar when breaking their lines. So, perhaps grammar is mostly applicable to prose writers.
Chuck Wendig wrote briefly on this topic very recently. In his post, In Writing There Are Rules and Then There are Rules, Chuck differentiated between laws of writing and guidelines of writing. Laws, he says, are the aspects of grammar that no one really disputes. “Commas work a certain way. Words mean things. Grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, etc.,” he writes. But guidelines are more wishy-washy. The way Chuck describes it, it seems like guidelines are “rules” that other writers come up with. “Don’t use too many adverbs,” for instance. These guidelines could be ignored in the name of style.
From what I can gather, the best advice you can follow is this: do what works for you. Try to abide by the grammar rules that govern the words you write, but other than that, just do what feels most natural and right for your style.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan