Consistency Is Key
If you read my earlier post on the grammar police, you know I don’t believe in the stark right and wrong of English grammar. I prefer to think in terms of standard and nonstandard, reflecting whether or not a bit of grammar or punctuation conforms to the generally agreed-upon norms.
But what does that mean for you, the writer?
So, I can do whatever I want, right?
Yes . . . And no.
Remember that the purpose of language is communication, and if your readers can’t figure out what you’re saying because your grammar and punctuation are all over the place or too unfamiliar to them, you won’t get good communication.
Be purposeful with your choices.
When you’re making the choice to break with standard grammar rules or even with your chosen style guide, ask yourself a couple of key questions.
Who are your intended readers? Do your grammar and punctuation choices improve or impede communication with them?
I understand wanting to be unique and forge your own path, but if no one else can keep up with you, you’re essentially writing for yourself, and your books aren’t going to get bought or read.
However, if you can find that line between standing out from other writers and alienating readers, your bold choices could be an asset. You just have to make them with your goal in mind.
Also, if you make choices with your goal and intended readers in mind, you can ignore the critics who hate your choices. To be fair, there will always be someone who despises what you do. Just make sure they’re not the people you’re writing for.
Above all, be consistent.
Language is subjective, and as long as you’re communicating effectively with your readers, you can get as creative as you want. But be consistent in your creativity.
As an example, change the background color on a book or document you’re reading or on your computer screen. At first, it looks weird, but you soon get used to it and don’t even notice it anymore. But if the color keeps changing every minute or two, it will quickly drive you mad, and you’ll likely give up and walk away in frustration.
Our minds can accept new realities and adjust until we don’t even notice the difference. But only if it’s consistent.
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.