8 comments on “When Grammar Gets In The Way Of Style

  1. Grrr, the prohibition against “and” and “but” at the beginning of sentences drives me crazy. I used to work at eliminating these formations from my blog posts, but as you have pointed out, it changes your style. Sometimes, it changes your meaning. Mostly, it ensures a lot of sentences begin with “In addition” and “On the other hand.”

    Meanwhile, I am scratching my head and wondering who follows the AP Stylebook anymore. I see sentences beginning with “and” and “but” in the works of many esteemed journalists.

    Third paragraph, fourth sentence: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=all

    Skim the leading words in the paragraphs and you’ll see a couple “buts”: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/10/0082673

    Fourth paragraph, second sentence: http://www.wired.com/images/press/pdf/WIRED_1709_Placebo.pdf

    I could do this all day, but apparently The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Wired, Science, and The New Yorker are not using the AP Stylebook. I found four examples in a quick skim of the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010.

    That said, I hope new writers understand that they will do better to adhere to their clients’ standards rather than arguing grammar points. Learn your clients’ expectations and pet peeves, deliver the product they want to buy, then go find more suitable clients.

    Thanks for sharing this, George. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one cussing at my screen some days.
    Tammi Kibler´s last blog post ..10 Things I Hate About Textbroker

    • Wow, Tammi. Awesome response. I can’t help but feel that us writers are being put in the middle of this. I guess in some kinds of writing, strict adherence to a style guide is important but in a lot of ways, if you are writing in AP or Chicago style, you’re not writing in your own. And sometimes, shouldn’t that be okay?

      George

  2. Hi George.. This is a very important article and we should not let others bully us.. I think this is what most people need, especially the bloggers.. Thanks for this..
    Jenny´s last blog post ..Sharepoint Hosting

  3. OK….But your style needs to be appropriate for the audience and the context in which they’ll read the piece. A state-of-the-union message should have a different style than an article in Parade magazine. You seem to be saying “It’s my style, and if they don’t like it that’s too bad.” If that’s what you’re saying I can’t agree with you.

    That said, if the writing service doesn’t clearly tell you what its expectations are with regard to style, then there’s probably no way you’ll ever satisfy them.

  4. “What would the writing and reading world look like if we all followed the cookie cutter madness? One of the things that made me so fond of Stephen King was his out-of-the-box style in “The Shining.” Wowed me to my core, it did.”

    Ditto for me on ‘The Shining’ – I learned a lot from King just by absorbing his voice and style, no by picking his writing apart clinically.

    The subject of ‘cookie cutter’ something I think of often when I am reading first chapters on Amazon (which I do a lot). I feel for writers who put a lot into making their book but are obviously afraid to stamp their writing with style. In another similar example: often, articles on ‘voice’ do more damage than good to a writer who is trying to understand and define what that is. Everyone has a voice naturally, and if you are writing with heart, your voice will be there naturally. The point of writing is to pass along something that everyone can relate to, and that means being human, n’est pas? If a writer conforms to being perfect grammatically and follows all the form and structure of ‘successful’ fiction manuscripts, he or she will likely end up with something pretty dry. I’d rather see something original and juicy than just another writer who ‘did everything right’.

    Good for you on your choices and thanks for taking up this important point.

    I want to post a sentence from an impressive writer I came across yesterday (yes, reading first chapters on Amazon again.) I thought her writing was standout, and this sentence showed that she was coloring outside the lines, which is exactly what I’m talking about and why I made the tweet – in hope that other writers would let themselves go and stop focussing so much on form and correctness.

    A sentence from: ‘Last Night in Montreal’ by Emily St. John Mandel @EmilyMandel ::

    “Later she could never remember why they had started driving away from everything, and at first her father was rendered in the broadest possible strokes: the hand passing her a Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate in the gas station parking lot, the voice soothing her in a motel room as he cut off all her hair and dyed it, but mostly as a silhouette in the driver’s seat, an impression, a voice; he knew the words to half the songs on the radio, and he said things that always made her laugh.”

    Kindle Store http://amzn.to/JzZsHz

  5. Hi George! I found you through Milli’s blogroll at Fear of Writing… I absolutely adore “Tumblemoose” as a blog name. =) And I enjoyed this post, too. I think the type of editor who marks grammar at the expense of style is probably either an amateur or an editor for a different type of writing. It’s hard for many writers to understand that rules can be broken when it’s done intentionally. I too am a fan of starting sentences with “and” or “but,” and my critique group regularly circles them. It’s fine, because we’re all writers and not professional editors, but it does make me smile how adamantly some of them continue to circle these things no matter how familiar they become with my work. Anyway, I completely agree with you. Nice to find you here!
    Annie Neugebauer´s last blog post ..Writing Terms & Editing Symbols

    • Hi Annie,

      I am SO sorry for the delayed response to your lovely comment. My blog has decided to not notify me of comments and I’m sitting here today discovering these wonderful gems. Btw, I love Milli and her stuff. Inspiring, no?

      Heading over to have a peek at your blog now.

      Cheers!

      George

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