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Monday, June 7, 2010

Breaking the Rules

The idea of knowing the rules first in order to break them later is perhaps the stupidest idea about writing ever promulgated. And I don't mean stupid in the positive sense of the word. I mean stupid as in asinine. The problem comes when the rules you are supposed to know before breaking are not really rules at all, but prescriptivist poppycock, zombie rules, and usage-Fascist shibboleths like the use of hopefully.

Take the rule against beginning a sentence with the word and. Good writers use and and but at the beginning of sentences all the time. I was just reading Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books and he did this several times. Wills is an excellent stylist. The idea that we should first teach writing students not to do this, and then later let them in on the secret that many good writers do this all the time, makes absolutely no sense. It isn't a "rule" in the first place, stupid.

1 comment:

Phaedrus said...

This made me laugh out loud; thank you (semicolon used, I hope, appropriately).