Last week, Eric Deckers — a great writer I respect, who (or is it “whom?”) has written for newspapers for over 20 years — said he never learned when to use “who” or “whom,” and didn’t care. Another writer/editor friend, whose work I thoroughly enjoy, was uncertain on when to use “that” vs. “which”. When is it a restrictive clause anyway? My point being — even highly trained and experienced writers don’t know it all. Although one should know the rules before breaking them, we shouldn’t let grammar and tradition get in the way of writing — especially in a blog.
Don’t get me wrong, good grammar counts and should be followed and used, but not unconditionally. For example, on this blog, we loosely follow AP style, as long as it doesn’t contradict the feel or the voice of the post. For example, while it’s considered correct to spell out numbers one through nine, we sometimes break this rule for emphasis in post titles, subheads, and sometimes, standard copy (ex: “7 Keys to Success”). We nearly always use the oxford comma. We occasionally split an infinitive, begin a sentence with a conjunction, or use a passive voice when it works for our intent. Although we’re often guided by Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, it doesn’t mean we always adhere to those guidelines. Like any art or philosophy, there are extremes on both sides. There are those who follow no rules, those who follow every rule, and everything in-between. Whatever the case, our writing should be consistent, mindful, and properly communicated to our audiences.
Hemingway suggested, “write drunk; edit sober.” It’s important to allow creative freedom when writing, and just as important to reign it in when editing. What may get in the way is over zealously following or breaking the rules. Know the rules well, then write what’s right for you.