Knowing When to Break the Rules

When it comes to writing anything there are rules. Grammar rules, spelling rules, style rules, layout rules, format rules and all sorts of other rules to do with genres, characters etc.

The first hurdle is learning all these rules but if all of them were obeyed 100% of the time the books, films, poems and everything else we write would be rather boring if they all followed all the rules. We’d all sound similar and nothing would feel that unique.

So here’s some of the reasons I break the rules:

If the emphasis of a sentence is lost if I stick to the grammar rules I occasionally have something not quite so correct. Often this is when the subject of the sentence isn’t what I actually want to focus on. I probably only do this with 2-3 sentences in an entire book though.

The only other grammar rule I break is because I think the language has moved on and it involves the ellipses. I always miss the space before and have it follow on the previous word like this… rather than likes this … because the ellipses was origionally used when quoting to note that something had been missed out, and when that’s why I’m using it I still put the space before in there but I also use an ellipses when a character trails off a sentence and then it’s used online without the space beforehand.

I also occasionally break the ‘rule’ not to use passive voice as again it can help get the right emphasis to break the rule. There are some other good examples of breking these sorts of rules. The line ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before’ breaks the rule of not splitting infinitives. ‘to go’ is being split by ‘boldly’ but ‘to go boldly’ doesn’t sound right.

There are also rules about not having scenes in books and films unless they move the plot forward but occasionally I keep a scene that’s just character based and helps the reader get to know the character. While this can slow the pace of a book it also helps the reader feel connected to the people they’re reading about. A balance should be struck between these two. My editor and proof-readers weigh in heavily on whether I keep these scenes or not as they are less attached to the characters than I am.

There are a few others I’ve broken over the years writing but they always come down to whether I think they add to the overall storyline, feel and point of the piece. It’s important to remember that the rules are there for a reason but sometimes breaking them just works.

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