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Which Writing Rules Are Made to be Broken?

Let’s be honest. We don’t always follow every gem of literary advice we’ve been given, even if we probably should. Today we’re talking about the rule we Chicks break on a regular basis—and we invite you to join the conversation in the comments below! 

Ellen Byron

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To be honest, I despise a lot of writing “rules.” They tend to bring out the stubborn mule in me. Only use “said” with dialogue? Yeah, I don’t think so… she scoffed. I grudgingly adhere to some of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for Good Writing, BUT – notice he didn’t say Great writing. I think that great writing isn’t rule-bound; it’s the specific voice of a writer. (Note that I just used a semicolon, which I only recently learned is a writing no-no. Uh oh, my inner mule is kicking! And I just used an exclamation mark! And another!)

By the way, all this is also a way of justifying the fact that I know diddly squat about grammar. Seriously. I’ve earned my living as a writer for thirty years, but don’t ask me what a dangling participle is because there’s not a chance in hell I could tell you. The truth is, I’m probably breaking a lot of writing and grammar rules simply by the act of living.


  Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

Half the fun of writing rules is knowing when to break them—especially those pesky grammar rules. For example, the sentence frag. I love them. Love ’em! They add a certain conversational verve to writing. A strict adherence to complete sentences can make writing seem fussy and overly formal. Which is great if that’s what you’re going for. But that’s not what I’m going for. As you can see. (Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it here.) I also refuse to torture a sentence just to keep it from ending in a preposition. This is (toborrow from Winston Churchill) the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put!

Lisa Q. Mathews

CotC Word balloons

I guess there are plenty of writing rules I break (*cough*) more often than I should, but here’s my (non) favorite: Write every day, without fail. Set aside a regular time for your writing, and stick to it.

Sadly, I don’t believe I’ve ever been able to do this, unless I’m under deadline, and then I most definitely am writing every day, 24-7. Except, of course, for all those little breaks I take to whine and moan and snivel to my long-suffering (and always patient) fellow Chicks. I know, it’s important to treat writing as a business. I’m just that “always open for business” type of writer. And I’m also very enamored of that whole take-the-month-of-August-off French business model. Sigh. Not gonna happen.


Kellye Garrett

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Like Lisa, I’m the queen of ignoring good advice. (I also have yet to master the whole “write everyday” thing.) However, the one thing I tend to ignore more than I should it’s definitely “set the scene.” I completely 100% blame my screenwriting background, but I am horrible at describing the setting. For me, the fun parts are the dialogue and—to a lesser extent—the plot. But I am the worst when it comes to describing where we are or what the place looks like. In my defense, I do try. I’ll find myself sitting down like at the computer all, “Yes, I’m going to add lots of great details about location,” and proceed to spend more time than I should. In my mind, I’m doing an amazing job, providing intricate details, making my reader feel like they are RIGHT THERE WITH MY CHARACTER. When I go back to read it, I’ll have written all of like four sentences.


So…do you have a writing rule you don’t always live by? ‘Fess up! We won’t judge.

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8 thoughts on “Which Writing Rules Are Made to be Broken?

  1. We’re indeed sisters in crime. I’ve broken every rule you mentioned and a few more. Telling stories is right brain work. Grammar and rules are left brain–the chore that awaits once the story is told. I’m ambidextrous (business major followed by English lit) which might account for my confusion. I can tell you that making up stuff is a lot more fun than accounting.
    Nancy G. West (ambidexterous) and Aggie Mundeen (right brained.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree, Nancy! I took one accounting class during my short-lived term as a business major, and that was enough to convince me to switch to a different path. Thanks for saying hi!

      Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Nancy…Although, since I’m also an editor in my “other” life, my brain is probably completely miswired. It’s definitely hard to switch back and forth (and also to shut off that internal editor while writing)!

      Liked by 1 person

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