For a little while I was writing articles for an online publisher. I stopped because of the rules they employed. Most of the titles I use for my articles are whimsy or an attempt at a double entendre …maybe some humor. But my titles violated one of their strongest rules. They demanded titles like “The Veterans Administration: dealing with benefits when above age 65″ or some long and drawn out lameness and cheese. Language is not a static and unchanging thing on the whole. New words are invented all the time, and the meanings of some words get twisted significantly through popular use. The word “bling” comes to mind as an example. Rappers developed this word to describe jewelry or something bright and shining. Like booty, these are words firm within the lexicon of even non-English speaking people, which now pretty much describes Americans who haven’t spoken real English in generations.
The organization also told me that my articles had to be a specific number of words long. This meant that I would have to add unnecessary words or delete words I felt were needed as I wrote. The end result was that the articles I wrote ended up not being articles I wrote. Instead, they were transcriptions of what someone else wanted to say. I quit, and their response was that I had lots of potential, why didn’t I stick around and they would assign someone to teach me to write properly. That’s when I told them that I not only quit, but never wanted to hear from their organization again. I’m no expert, but I understand something they apparently don’t: it isn’t grammar, spelling and format that make writings people wish to read. It is whether or not we writers make a connection and communicate our concepts to the audience. By their measure, Mark Twain would have had his work rejected.
All art is personal. Yes, it requires certain rules to exist so that the language used is common between the author and reader, but that is the only hurdle. I can’t invent a language and write in it expecting anyone to know what I said. But if the language is common, one could remove all of the vowels from the text and it would still be readable and understood. As a result, the only thing a writer need do is choose and stick with a language, but even that rule isn’t firm. After all, our language is fettered with expressions and words from other languages in addition to invented words. Even verbal sound effects are legitimate locution.
I don’t set myself up as a good writer. I think I get by, but all I’m trying to do is inform, amuse and share ideas. I’m informal because I am terminally casual in almost everything. Shucks, I don’t even own a suit and tie; my wardrobe is entirely blue collar. As a result, I tend only to get picayune about rules in a limited array of subjects. Like most Americans, I don’t follow the letter of the law so much as I try not to get into trouble. Trouble interferes with my plans and so I avoid it. So when the speed limit sign says 55, I tend to do 55 because I don’t want the aggravation of police interaction. However, I am guided by a moral compass, and the rules it implies I follow to a T. But I have never had any respect for laws which try to control actions in spite of the way circumstances vary so widely as to make the rules into someone else’s opinion –and no more. Opinions can be agreed with or not, which is actually kind of the point. Unless one is writing a report, the rules of communication are the domain of the writer. From there on out, it’s all about the beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
I’m just saying.