Sunday, February 1, 2015

Breaking the Rules

"From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." 
Winston Churchill

I love that quote because it pokes fun at one of the rules of writing that we were taught early on, "Never end a sentence with a preposition." And, as in the quote, there are times when it doesn't make sense to follow that rule. I guess it's true what they say: some rules were made to be broken.

Most rules became rules for a reason but sometimes we need to break a rule. However, it's one thing to violate the rules of grammar and punctuation because we don't know any better and it's quite another thing to break them because we make a deliberate choice to do so. You should know the rules before you decide to break them. 

Another rule that writers were taught: Never begin a sentence with a conjunction. As you read the next paragraph, you'll see I definitely choose to ignore that rule from time to time because, in my opinion,  beginning a sentence with "and" or "but" can be very effective.

Another example: Avoid clichés. And, while I think it's important to come up with creative ways of expressing our thoughts rather than mimicking someone else's, I happen to love clichés. In a few words, they can get an important point across. They're universal; everyone knows what they mean. That's why and how they became clichés. I know to avoid using them in prose but, sometimes, I choose to use them anyway, especially in dialogue. 

So, as writers, we need to learn to trust our instincts, to ask ourselves whether or not breaking a rule will improve our writing. And, if we believe it will, I say, "Go for it!"


  1. Excellent post! I'm in complete agreement with you. Sometimes following the rules makes things sound odd, and it can throw the reader right out of a story.
    Marja McGraw

    1. Thanks, Marja!
      And, throwing the reader right out of the story is the LAST thing we want!

  2. I agree also. In fact, I used to say, "Rules are meant to be broken including this one." Which, I guess, is an oxymoron.

    1. Don't you love the quote by Winston Churchill, Pat? It says it all.

  3. Yes, Patricia, I agree that it does say it all.