Style Summary (Lesson 2)
This lesson, titled “Correctness,” discusses the many different outlooks on what it is to be a writer who strictly follows the many tedious rules of Standard English versus what it is to be a writer who uses the knowledge of the rules to embellish their work and do so ‘correctly.’
In talking about the many rules that are a big part of correct writing, I again found relief and comfort in reading about the many, many generations of writers who have not understood the best ways or best rules to use in order to achieve a correct and crystal clear way of portraying their argument to an audience, or reader.
On page 15 Williams states, “For the past 250 years, grammarians have accused the best writers of violating these invented rules, and for 250 years those writers have ignored them. . . The fact is, none of these invented rules reflects the consensus of unselfconscious usage of our best writers.” This is the passage that first made me sigh in relief to know that even the best of writers have had similar struggles to those that I have had myself.
The ‘invented rules’ that are mentioned in the above quotation, are also known as “folklore.” Folklore’s are the few rules that have been made up by grammarians that often times “well educated” writers apparently to fixate on. Just a few of the rules are as follows: as to not ever split infinitives, to never ending a sentence with a preposition, and to not replace the word which for the word that.
Although this lesson informs us about the many rules and regulations that many of us have already tried to drill into our memories, it also gives a positive perspective on the times where it is best for the writer to use their language as they see fit, whether or not it be “legal” by the strict guidelines of Standard English. Williams even go on to say that if all you do when writing, is mindlessly follow the rules, that consequently you will be giving up a certain privilege called choice. If a writer only writes on the basis of the rules and restrictions that they are given, then they are asking to have a much harder time completing their piece; something that is much easier when you apply the rules that you know to your thought process when writing, but still allowing yourself to play with whatever information you are working with and write in the manner you see fit to your text.