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We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules · 18 January 2014


Contrary to popular opinion, I do know the rules of the English language. I just choose not to follow them all the time.


I have heard it said that great writers do not always follow the rules of grammar. Not in the way that children or people just learning the English language misspell words or misplace punctuation, but in deliberate ways to spice up their writing. To make the ideas jump off the page.


Even though I am not always deliberate in my abuse of prose, I decided long ago that I ought to bend or even break the rules to prove that I am a great writer. Instead of becoming a great writer first.


My first foray into abusing the rules of English happened when I was young and learning the way of writing. I thought many, if not all, sentences should begin with prepositional phrases. “Because” was one of my favorite initial words.


Because he wanted to show his daring, he jumped out of the plane. Because he was sick, he was pale. Because he read the last couple sentences, he vomited.


It was ludicrous, but I figured that if some of the greats could do it, so could I. In retrospect, I do not know if it was false bravado or if I was merely trying to imitate stuffy old English writers (who I did not admire much anyway), I just liked starting sentences with prepositional phrases. However, regardless of the reason, I kept up this practice for years until my wife told me to just knock it off.


Of course, there are times when I still start sentences with propositional phrases, but I try to keep them to a minimum. (I still end sentences with prepositions, but that is another story.)


I know I am no great writer, but I actually do know a thing or two about writing. Really.


I know that we are not supposed to compose sentences that go on and on and on and on. I know that we are supposed to vary our word choices. I know that we are not supposed to have incomplete sentences or start sentences with conjunctions (or prepositions) or have single sentence paragraphs. The list goes on about all the things I know I am supposed to do and all the things I am not supposed to do when writing. And yet, I choose to ignore many of those great rules at times. Even though I am not one of the greats who can do so without fear of ridicule or reprisal.


When it comes right down to it, I know I am just a hack with a website. I know that my prose is forgotten almost as soon as it is read. I know that there is no literary merit to what I write. I know that there is no joy in Mudville. That I will strike out more often than not. Yet I still write. Within and without the rules.


It is not that I write to flaunt the rules of the English language. Or to make my friend crazy when I end a sentence with a preposition. Or even to make English teachers point to my bad examples. I just write because I must. And sometimes following the rules makes sense to me. Sometimes it does not.


So whether you are reading for the first time and wondering, or you have been reading for a long time and criticizing, or you are reading because you are related to me and feel you must, rest assured. I really do know the rules of writing. I just choose not to follow them all the time.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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