Author Topic: Why There Are Rules for Writing  (Read 7587 times)

Offline Spell Chick

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Why There Are Rules for Writing
« on: February 03, 2009, 09:03:15 AM »
Someone asked in another thread why there are rules for writing and stated there should be a thread for that. So here it is.

I believe there are rules for writing, and everything else, because without rules there is anarchy. While anarchy may sound nice, it really is simply too confusing to live in.

There is another thread about a town in England banning the apostrophe. Grammarians are stunned at the appalling misuse of the lovely punctuation mark. Some agree, some are in favor of getting rid of the thing because people are simply too stupid to understand its proper use. I have no idea WHEN people became so stupid, but there you have it.

There was even mention of needing a high school education to understand where the lovely mark should and should not be. Here in the States, we begin teaching about the apostrophe in the second grade or for 6-7 year olds. I'm not sure of the curriculum in Europe.

The reason there are rules is to facilitate understanding. If everyone wrote willy-nilly and without regard to the proper mechanics of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the like, we wouldn't be able to understand a thing.

Now, keep those infinitives together - no splitting. Oh, wait, that rule changed and we may boldly go where no man has gone before. So, you see, with time, rules do change. And we can flaunt them. But in order to correctly flaunt the rules, you had to know what they were in the first place.

Anyone else know why we have so many rules?
Anyone have a rule they wish to see discarded?
Anyone have a question about the validity of a particular rule?
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

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Offline Hugh

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2009, 10:40:52 AM »
Walking on a lawn is . . . just walking on a lawn

When a sign says, “Keep off the Grass”, walking on a lawn becomes something else (irresistible?).

We need to know the rules before we can break them.  They are there for a purpose. They provide clarity, precision.  And that includes apostrophes.

As you say, some “rules”, like splitting infinitives, have gone out of the window since we were at school – well, me anyway – but I agree that children should learn proper grammar from a young age.  Then, if they want to bend a rule for effect, at least they know what they are doing.

Picasso was well grounded in anatomy before he started putting body parts in strange places.  And Henry Miller knew how to punctuate before he wrote Tropic of Cancer.

Hugh

Nelodra

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2009, 10:48:01 AM »
Although I disagree on the anarchy analogy (anarchy is not the lack of rules, but rather the absence of rules forced on us by some body of authority), I do agree that we need rules in writing.

If I didn't know the rules, I'd be writing total gibberish. I'd be writing a random mix of all the languages I know (Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Biblical Hebrew, Ivrit, Yiddish, Farsi - not that I speak all these languages equally well, mind you) and their grammatical structures.

Do you think any of you would understand a word of what I was trying to say?  ???

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2009, 12:09:45 PM »

Do you think any of you would understand a word of what I was trying to say?  ???

Yes!  Of course.  The odd word here and there.  But not a whole sentence;-)

Gyppo
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Nelodra

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2009, 12:22:52 PM »
Yes!  Of course.  The odd word here and there.  But not a whole sentence;-)

Gyppo

LOL!
I knew someone would notice that and say something about it.  :D

Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2009, 12:34:53 PM »
English is a ravenous language and takes for its own any word that sparks its fancy.

I am enveloped in ennui. But I don't speak French.

I know a putz or two, but I don't speak Yiddish.

You get the idea without my going through all manner of languages.

If you don't know the proper place for a comma, you don't get a pause when you need one. If you are unsure of the rules and regulations, your writing suffers.

I cannot take seriously a writer who is unable to write cogently. I cringe when confronted with a page full of errors. I'm usually unsure where to even start with any sort of critique. I understand the typo creeping in on little cat feet and ruining a perfect line. When the author doesn't understand the difference in homophones or the use of appropriate punctuation, it is more than a typo.

And when I see anything in text-speak, I don't even try to translate it into English.

I learned more punctuation rules in a class for shorthand than in twelve years of English classes.

If and when sentences need a pause between the original phrase and its resolution. If you begin with this, [pause] you need to indicated the end of the supposition and the beginning of the resolution. When a sentence begins this way, [pause] you need to show the end of one part of the line and the beginning of the end.

The exclamation mark should be used only in extreme emergencies, such as "Your pants are on fire!"  

There are rules and more rules. They give structure to our writing so a reader can interpret our words with as little error as possible.

And yet the conundrum remains. Do we all see "red" as the same color?
Our writing will never be crystal clear. As Nel pointed out, her definition of anarchy differed from mine. I went to Miriam-Webster to see if I had chosen a wrongly nuanced word. I was going for this definition: 2 a: absence or denial of any authority or established order b: absence of order

We all bring shades of meaning to various words. Some words naturally contain more emotion than others. When we say something is "beautiful" our picture of that quality may be far different from the reader's. If we can at least minimize the confusion, our chance of being understood increases.

And maybe that is why we should learn all the rules. Even readers who don't know or can't recite the rules knows when something feels "wrong."
« Last Edit: February 03, 2009, 12:37:34 PM by SpChick »
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

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Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2009, 12:57:44 PM »
I was reading this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28900351/

and it linked to this: http://www.unnecessaryquotes.com/

OMG, she said in text speak and sans quotes.

Oh my.
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

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Wolfe

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2009, 01:07:49 PM »
It's a lot more simple than that.  But, I'm more interested in the reason people think the rules are in place.   ;D  The answer is looking you in the face, if you're paying attention.

Wolfe

GondorianPrincess

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2009, 02:21:44 PM »
I have always believed that you can tell the sort of person someone is by their writing. And not just their "stories" if they fancy them selves a writer, but by such places our forum. I am not talking about anyone here, I do not want to make any judgements of my good friends. However, I have been to other forums on the net and I can say this. I have noticed that a person who does not write corectly isn't the sort of person who cares for their writing in the first place.

If I see someone not capitalize their "i" when they begin a sentence with "I" - it screams "I'm too lazy".
The same with punctuation. I learned how to punctuate early and have always gone by these rules. True, I may get confused on where exactly an apostraphe is supposed to be used, but this little beauty changes the meaning of the words written. Savvy?

That's what some people do not get, if they disreguard rules, they change the meaning of the words. I think that as writers we go by most of the rules not becase we have too but because if we don't our meanings won't be clear enough to the reader.

So, let us not, dear friends, forget our dear friends the apastrophe, period, quotation marks, flippery little sauges they are, but handy to have around. *lol*

Offline Donnettetxgirl

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2009, 03:23:44 PM »
Although there are proper places for commas, apastrophies & all that. To me that's just grammar. I think just as importantly a good writer needs to pay close attention to how they tell a story. Does the story flow smooth? Does the reader have to struggle to understand it, or is it simple for them? Is there too much passive voice? Too many long words? Too much or too less description? I think good writing goes way beyond correct grammar.

I can't say I necessarily look at a writer's incorrect grammar as a writer that doesn't care for their writing. I look at that as more a writer that may not have really learned their skill yet, or hasn't perfected it. I'd have to say when I first started writing many, many year ago, my grammar wasn't the best & definitely needed some paying attention to. But, it was my passion for writing that drove me to learn more & more. The more I wrote, the more I learned. When I felt I needed to improve, I looked for ways to find out how to do that. I think during the submission process of my first book I managed to learn so much more about writing. Then, I'd have to say is when I learned more than at any other time.

Donnette Smith
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GondorianPrincess

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2009, 03:40:13 PM »
Not to mention that we all interperet things idfferently as well. *lol*

Offline Donnettetxgirl

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2009, 02:54:55 PM »
This is true.

Donnette Smith
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Offline Spell Chick

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2009, 03:10:24 PM »
Although there are proper places for commas, apastrophies & all that. To me that's just grammar. I think just as importantly a good writer needs to pay close attention to how they tell a story. Does the story flow smooth? Does the reader have to struggle to understand it, or is it simple for them? Is there too much passive voice? Too many long words? Too much or too less description? I think good writing goes way beyond correct grammar.

I can't say I necessarily look at a writer's incorrect grammar as a writer that doesn't care for their writing. I look at that as more a writer that may not have really learned their skill yet, or hasn't perfected it. I'd have to say when I first started writing many, many year ago, my grammar wasn't the best & definitely needed some paying attention to. But, it was my passion for writing that drove me to learn more & more. The more I wrote, the more I learned. When I felt I needed to improve, I looked for ways to find out how to do that. I think during the submission process of my first book I managed to learn so much more about writing. Then, I'd have to say is when I learned more than at any other time.


I don't ever think grammar is "just." There are ways to use the language properly. It is imperative that the story line be clear to the reader. It is not necessary to use only little words. Diminutive words are fine, but polysyllabic ones work as well. If you are writing for small children, your language needs to be scaled back. If you are writing for adults, pretend they are literate.

While it is not mandatory for an author to use proper technique, it does show a certain lack of ability to eschew rules entirely. Early works of established writers, according to a few threads recently posted, make them cringe. With successive books, their skill level rose. One would hope that after years of authorship, the writer actually learned something and improved. Even Shakespeare did.

I'm chagrined to find the educational system so inept that students are graduating from high school without knowing basic grammar. I guess we have gotten so taken with all the ancillary tasks, there is no longer time for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Or perhaps, the items are taught and they are too difficult to learn. Perhaps they are seen as archaic and stifling to the self-esteem of small children, what with a definite wrong and right.

Whatever the reasons are, grammar is important. So is spelling. So is the story.

All are less important on a message board, but still give insight into the writer's method of communication.

Stuffy Old English major,
Patti
Little Bits of History A short essay on something that happened on any day.

Imperfect Reason My thoughts, such as they are.

GondorianPrincess

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2009, 04:06:47 PM »
English is actually the hardest languages to learn if it is going to be your second.
But, I actually found Spanish to be pretty hard. Well, that and maybe the Spanish polka turned me off to it. *lol*

if I am going to be bilingual, I will learn Japanese!  ;D

Nelodra

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Re: Why There Are Rules for Writing
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2009, 04:15:06 PM »
English is actually the hardest languages to learn if it is going to be your second.

Actually, it isn't. English is probably one of the easiest languages to learn as a second language - which would (probably, again) explain why it's so hard for most English speakers to learn a second language.