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Scott Lax Blog

When Should You Break the Rules?

T.S. Eliot wrote, "It's not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them." Likely he was talking about the rules of poetry and prose. But you can apply that to grammar - to style and usage - too.

If you break a grammatical writing rule, you should do so with an understanding of what rule you're breaking, and why.

Say you're writing dialogue in a young adult or middle-grade novel - or any novel, for that matter. If your character is someone who would say, "Me and Sally went to the mall," then it's fine to break that rule -- it's advisable, really. Because it's honest, it's the way your character talks, and that means it's right for the story.

If you're writing an essay in your own, adult voice, however, and you write, "Me and Bobby went bowling today," then you just sound ignorant of grammatical rules of usage. There's a big difference.

How do you learn the basic rules of composition? Pick up Strunk and White's THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. There are other good books on style and usage, as well.

It helps to read one of them. You (and I) will still make mistakes, but we'll make fewer of them.  Read More