Allow Me To Irk You

I understand that there are many differences between personal writing and professional writing. Articles written for a newspaper will be different from those that are written for a magazine; an essay written to a friend will differ from an essay written for the SATs.

Each piece of writing begins the same way; we place letters into varying combinations in order to make words. Those words, we thoughtfully place among others in order to create meaningful sentences.

Each sentence, as we have learned, begins with a capital letter and ends with a period. At times, there may be other marks of punctuation within the sentence. We all know, or should know, that proper nouns are capitalized, an initial is usually followed by a period, and commas have many useful features.

There are many punctuation marks that often remain overlooked by novice writers. They have not learned of the mark and it has not been explained to them. Through trial and error, some of these writers attempt to learn the marks on their own. No problem there; we all start somewhere. So what if a writer makes a mistake? The point is to learn from it and move on.

During a class in school, in some grade or another, we all learned the most common marks of punctuation and how to use them. Of course, the subject matter was much more boring, and the teacher made sure to drag out the explanations, which made it seem like improperly using one of these marks would result in the end of the world.

Along the same lines, we were also informed that there are certain rules to writing. Following these rules will guide us toward greatness, it seemed. Each sentence should contain a single thought, with the exception of compound sentences. The first word in the sentence should be capitalized, should not be a conjunction, and the last should not be a preposition. This is how many teachers have taught their students and it makes perfect sense.

Of course, today, we have many writers from all over the world who were taught differently from one another. Rules were broken down and explained to some, while others simply used the rules as guidelines and continued onward.

“There is an exception to every rule” is one quote that I cannot stand, for more than one reason. If you’ve ever ventured into the mechanics of the English language, you understand some of my frustrations. Another rule that seems so common is: So long as your writing is of value, it doesn’t matter what style you write in; bend or break rules whenever you choose.

Using all lowercase letters to emphasize a writing is but one of the many broken rules. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction, is simply another. Purposely misspelling words and leaving out commas in a sentence that is ninety miles long, are two more. Time and again I have seen these simple rules broken and the author was published. I laugh.

I began reading a book about creative writing. Within the first two paragraphs of the foreword, one of the editors chose to begin three sentences with: AND. While the sentences follow one another this seems perfectly fine. However, if you were to read the sentence alone, out of context, by itself: “And educators are also responsible for …” the sentence falls flat from the beginning. It shares an idea, though it’s not properly conveyed. — Why has this irritated me many times before? — Novices see the writings of professionals. Professionals bend and break rules whenever they choose. The novice is confused and curious, then attempts the same and is punished for breaking a rule.

Writers around the world have their own unique writing styles. Each of us have our own ways of talking, thinking, doing research, writing notes, etc., but there are just some rules of writing that should always remain in mind while writing. Students who are learning the language look toward professionals for guidance. How are they supposed to learn correctly, when the professional is allowed to break the rules for the sole purpose of looking good in print? — It makes very little sense to me, as I’d rather be thought of as intelligent and literate.

“The rules are rules, but only for the novice” is not good enough. Why take the time to bother with rules of writing, when each person naturally has their own distinctive flow of writing? If the rules are merely guidelines that may be bent and broken when the writer has successfully become an author, why have them in place at all?

Since I am on the subject of rules being broken, let’s skip over toward the flow of technology for a moment. Computers, cellphones, and other miniature devices have become so popular. Being compact, these devices are able to fit into a regular-sized pocket. Of course, the production company doesn’t offer the warning: Damage may result when this device is sat upon due to being in your back pocket. They expect people to remember; to be smart enough to remove it from their back pocket before sitting down – the same people who text and drive.

Similarly, “Txt Spk” has also become quite popular. Text speak, written out, isn’t a long phrase in the slightest. Remove the vowels and you’ve got letters that, at a glance, would seem randomly placed. While looking at the companies who charge per text message, as well as the companies in the business who also charge based on how many pages are in a single text, it makes sense to try to cram so much information into such a small space and hope that whoever reads it will understand what you’re trying to tell them. Sure. Perfect sense.

In the past, I remember a time during my early teenage years that a similar fad once had power over so many who were computer literate. If you think back to the nineties, you might recall that aesthetically appealing, but so confusing writing that was known as 1337 741K. I’m guilty of it. I was among the people who thought it was cool. Still, I look back and laugh to myself when I find notes and things. Then, there comes the thought of how many people had been confused by it. Was the one an ‘L’ in that word, or an ‘I’? Many people didn’t bother to learn it at all.

In a way, text speak is just another version that has been put into use by those who use cellphones. It makes sense, to a point. I rather enjoy using words to convey a message of meaningful thought, so excuse me and do not include me in your text speak conversation.

I gave up the aesthetically appealing when I decided that I would love to become a published writer. Though it was fun, I learned that it confused so many who were trying to decipher the message that I was sending. Ultimately, they turned away. Since then, I have made every attempt to learn, relearn, and keep my tools polished and in good working order. I’ve not had a need for text speak, so I don’t bother with it. I think I might be one of the few people who do not have a cellphone; I keep receiving awkward expressions when I tell people that I use my old phone as an alarm clock.

Along with writing rules that remain ignored, text speak that has begun to take over, and improperly used punctuation marks (which I’m also guilty of) in writings, it bothers me to think that the art of cursive writing is under debate. Should it remain in schools and be taught to students? Everyone is on the bandwagon of upgrading from pencil and paper to some electronic device that is able to get the job done easier.

Technology has its benefits and drawbacks. I’m not in a position to argue with the decision-makers, but I can and do disagree with many of their decisions. – Remember when it was rumored that staring at a television screen will cause bad vision? – Give the children handheld computer monitors! — Wonderful idea, isn’t it?

Still, I look at pencil and paper, usual writing and cursive, as the original and meaningful ways to express feelings. The best part about my pencil and paper: They don’t need time to recharge.

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2 thoughts on “Allow Me To Irk You

  1. What a nice, coherent and thoughtful essay. I’ve been a writer for years, in many different mediums, and each has its own set of rules and expectations. You raise the question — should those rules only apply to the novice? My answer is no. However, to me, writing is about expression. And reading is about understanding that expression, however it is set forth.

    I look at writing like music. First you learn the basics (classical training) and then you can extrapolate that knowledge to create something new. Something bold. Some expression of your “self.” It takes much dedication and effort and persistence to learn the rules of anything new — be it music or writing. And so in that light, of course the novice must “suffer.”

    But the payout? It can be amazing.

    It was tedious, decades ago, when I learned the required differences in writing for radio, television and print. Even something as simple as how you abbreviate a state changes in all three of those mediums. Or where you put the word, “say/said.” For example, in TV news, I would write my scripts like this, “Mayor Smith said police caught…,” but for print, I would write my columns in reverse and in a different tense, “‘…was caught by police,’ says Mayor Smith.”

    I know these rules, I worked hard to learn them, and I employ them when duty calls. For blogging, really, there are no rules. If I were to pick a style of writing blogging most closely resembles, it would be magazine writing. Conversational, curious, informative and visual.

    Thanks for opening the discussion on writing, and welcome to blogging!

    • Apparently, I have been reading too many How-To books lately. Thank you for reminding me that writing is about expression. Though it’s in every piece of written work, so easily is it forgotten, or simply set aside.

      There are many curves in writing that writers constantly need to be aware of. Even word placement will affect the overall meaning of what’s being offered.

      Thank you for the welcome, and thank you, again for sharing your wisdom.

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