I often worry a bit that we writers who frequent those odd dens of insecurity called workshops sometimes demand too much adherence to “rules” – fair enough, to learn and know them is important, and to be aware of what certain editors demand is wise, but quite honestly I think we’re making a rod for our own backs (cliché, sorry) if we run every single phrase through the mill of correctness.
No other expressive art form (music, sculpture, visual arts) demands such rigid subservience to a set of rules that are sometimes arbitrary, often archaic and frequently ill-defined.
A fellow writer, who I know from several workshop sites, and whose work I like and respect, has become almost fanatical in his loathing of adjectives and adverbs, ruthlessly hunting them down and strongly suggesting their removal. He is in some writing workshop where, apparently, all members are being taught to write “properly” and “expressively” and where, I imagine, they will all end up sounding alike.
Obviously, some adherence to the rules of grammar is advisable in order to avoid confusion and to convey ideas with clarity, and I wouldn’t respect anyone who claims to be a master of their craft while maintaining an almost total ignorance of the tools of their trade, but life is messy and often that’s the most truthful way to write about it. My advice is – write clearly, write honestly and write humanely; everything else is dress rules for the madhouse.
Inside the Editor's Den: Coming to the Page
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