Do you ever purposely break the rules of grammar?

I’ve been frantically working on my first round of edits with my editor for my novel. I’ve rewritten the beginning and am about 240 pages into my edits. Editing has actually raised a lot of questions for me, especially about my own personal writing style. So my question to you today is; do you ever purposely break the rules of grammar when you’re writing?

I do. The one I break the most is that of using “then” as a conjunction. I know “then” is not a proper conjunction. I know that to be correct you have to use “and then”.

“The woman smiled at her, blood dripping from her eyes, and then lunged.”

But to me, it sounds more fluid, more elegant to remove the “and”.

“The woman smiled at her, blood dripping from her eyes, then lunged.”

Let me tell you, my editor doesn’t like it. So the question is, do you break the rules to make your writing sound the way you want it to? Or do you follow the rules, because they ARE the rules, and you are just a new author? What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion.

9 thoughts on “Do you ever purposely break the rules of grammar?

  1. I ain’t gonna go breakin’ no rules myself, mind you.

    But there is a distinct difference in the two examples you gave, not in correctness, but in the way that they feel. And feeling is what it’s all about, isn’t it? You can’t always get that across minding the rules. So I say you just go on writing it the way you feel it and editors can keep ‘correcting’ it, but sooner or later who knows, you may achieve the success you need to make your own rules stand. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t hurt to point out it was deliberate.

  2. My editor had a cow when I used “and then”, screaming up and down it wasn’t a proper conjunction. It is when used right, I said. She screamed some more. I’m editing them out.

    As to breaking grammar rules…I break them all the time. That’s what I love about fiction. You can break the rules. Hopefully your editor will let you.

  3. For what it’s worth, the big difference to me in this example is that the extra time it takes to read “and” slows down the action. She did XYZ, and then went to the store. Ho-hum. She did XYZ, then went to the store. Given the mundane nature of the verbs in MY example, I’d go with the editor.

    Given YOUR sentence above (and the verb lunged), taking the “and” out makes me read it as a sudden movement.

    The cat sat still, hidden by the tall grass, then lunged at the mouse.
    The cat sat still, hidden by the tall grass, and then lunged at the mouse.

    Here, the “and” makes the second sentence (to me) read more like a dry recitation of events.

    So, stylistically, given the verb, I would not keep the “and” because it alters the pace you (I assume) want. It would be different if the lunging was, say, part of a workout routine, but this lunge sounds like a combat scene. Shorter sentences for those.

    My 28.5 cents. 🙂

  4. I break rules all the time and I do it on purpose. It drives my proofreader nuts, but I always tell her rules are made to be broken. This is especially true when the story I’ve written is all about breaking free of boundaries. 🙂

  5. “Then lunged” conveys the urgency of the situation you are writing about – but – editors can and will be sticklers about such things. I’m sure that NY Times bestselling authors can and do get away with bending, breaking, and re-writing rules.

  6. It often depends on the voice I’m aiming for. If my MC is a teenager and it’s in first person, a lot of the grammar has to reflect the casual conversational feel of the story. If it’s a period piece, I will be more consistent with the grammar and make sure I don’t end with a preposition, or whatever other errors I might deliberately add into a YA novel. In a third person narrative, I will stick more strictly to the rules.

  7. Another way to get around this is to use a semicolon since “then” is not a conjunction like “and”, but then you need a subject again: “…blood dripping from her eyes; then she lunged.”

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