11 thoughts on “Rules for Writers

    • That is exactly correct. I read and re-read everything I post, making many changes to help clarity and flow, yet re-reading the same piece months later, I see still more I could have done to improve the piece. At some point, a writer needs to say, “Enough! No one will appreciate the effort, and, if nothing else, it gives your critics a little something they need for their next feeding frenzy”.

      That last sentence, notice, has the period outside the closing quotation mark. It looks right to me, yet I once had someone write a scathing critique of a similar sentence I punctuated that way. I say it closes the greater statement, and he argued it closed the quote within the greater statement. I changed it for the page I sent to him, and left it the same for the pages I sent to a dozen others.

      Frankly, right now it looks wrong punctuated that way. I lost my Strunk and White in a move, haven’t felt a need to replace it (apparently) because I will rewrite a sentence to avoid an issue if I’m uncertain and unable to establish what is correct. Now, that’s lazy writing!

      • Your first paragraph is a pending post of mine that’s been on the simmer. I would never write/revise/tweak to please a reader or critic – but stand my ground. But that’s just me. (Should be just I. But even Strunk & White honor the music of language, say there are times we ought to go with the ear.)

      • The example was from a report to be used by the board of an organization that is statewide. Little changes in text meant retyping whole pages in those days before computers and Word Perfect simplified and speeded things up.

        Though the period didn’t require a major change in the text, it did require mailing the corrected page off to all board members for their approval. (Never promise to send drafts out until the whole document is complete!)

        Sounds silly- it is! – but one of the issues the organization had at the time was a perception that the board conducted business without fully disclosing to the membership what they decided among themselves. (Frankly, most members didn’t have an interest in anything but the fun parts of belonging, something I quickly learned when I tried to encourage anyone to run for a board position after the nominating committee let me down and came to the business meeting without any nominee names they were supposed to present for a vote…!)

        The “period guy” wasn’t on the board, but was an outspoken member the board felt would be a good resource during the compilation of the report. The period was just one thing he brought up that was a nitpick more than constructive help, though some of his comments did prove helpful. (I won’t get into details because I have to disclose too much about the organization and the people involved for this place.)

        By the time I got to the period issue, I just tossed up my hands and made the one-off page with the period placed inside the final quotation mark.

        Circumstances dictate whether I revise or not for a critic. I wouldn’t revise my blog posts for just anyone, for example, but I would for a book editor at a major publishing house who decided ‘weggieboy: surviving retirement with three cats” is stuff of great commercial value, if only I’d drop that adjective there, and slip in a comma here…! (And stop using those darn exclamation marks after every sentence!!!)

    • I know I try to break as many as possible! (That’s so you don’t think I do it accidentally or in ignorance!) Reality is, a grammar-perfect piece of writing comes off as stilted oftentimes, and one where the rules get ignored or tweaked has a more natural, conversational feel about it. Make a transcript of a conversation and one quickly sees how dynamic and sloppy spoken language is!

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