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Breaking the Rules: When and How to Bend Writing Conventions


WRITING CONVENTIONS AND THEIR PURPOSE


Writing conventions are the agreed-upon rules and standards that govern our written language. They include everything from grammar and punctuation to dialogue and characterization. Writing conventions have evolved over centuries, shaped by cultural shifts, technological advancements, and literary experimentation.


The purpose of these conventions being to ensure clarity, consistency, and mutual understanding between writer and reader, they act as a common language - a shared set of symbols and structures that allow us to communicate complex ideas effectively. Without conventions, writing would be chaotic and incomprehensible, like trying to read a map without a key. Moreover, conventions enable us to engage with diverse audiences. They ensure that our writing is accessible and comprehensible to readers from various backgrounds and with different levels of reading proficiency. In other words, conventions are what make our writing universally readable.


However, it's worth noting that while conventions are important, they aren't sacrosanct. They are more like guidelines, flexible and subject to interpretation. They can be bent, twisted, and sometimes even broken, provided it is done with intent and skill. This is where the artistry of writing comes into play.


PERSONAL STYLE


We all have a unique voice, a personal style that sets our writing apart. This voice is shaped by a myriad of factors, including our experiences, beliefs, and influences. One of the ways in which our voice manifests itself in our writing is through the bending of conventions.

Bending conventions is about more than just being different or edgy. It's about finding new and innovative ways to express ourselves, to tell our stories. It's about pushing the boundaries of what is possible with language, about challenging the status quo.


That being said, bending conventions is not a free-for-all. It requires a deep understanding of the rules and a clear intention to deviate from them. It's about making conscious choices that serve the story and enhance the reader's experience.


ON CREATIVITY AND CLARITY


Bending the rules, like any other tool, can be a powerful instrument for creativity, enabling us to explore uncharted territories and experiment with new forms and styles. However, it's a tool that should be used with care. The challenge lies in balancing creativity with clarity. Likewise, creativity without clarity can result in confusing and alienated writing. The purpose of writing, after all, is to communicate. If our readers can't understand what we're trying to say, then we've failed in our task as writers.


On the other hand, clarity without creativity can result in dry and uninspiring writing. The beauty of language lies in its richness and diversity, in its capacity to evoke emotions and paint vivid pictures in our minds. Therefore, when bending or breaking conventions, we must always consider the impact on our readers. We must strike a balance between being innovative and being understood.


UNCONVENTIONAL FORMATTING FOR IMPACT


One of the ways in which we can bend writing conventions is through unconventional formatting. This can involve anything from unusual punctuation and capitalization to the layout of words on the page.


Unconventional formatting can be used to create emphasis, to convey mood or tone, or to mimic the rhythm of speech or thought. It can make our writing more dynamic and engaging, drawing the reader's attention to key elements of the text.


However, atypical formatting should be used judiciously. Overuse can be distracting and may detract from the content of the writing, and unless that was your intent, disorientation should be avoided. As with all things in writing, moderation is key.


COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS


There are many misconceptions about breaking writing conventions. Some people see it as a sign of laziness or incompetence. Others view it as a gimmick, a cheap trick used to grab attention.


The truth is that going against the grain is neither of these things. It is a conscious and deliberate choice made by the writer to serve a specific purpose. It is a technique like any other, one that can add depth and complexity to our writing when used appropriately.


Moreover, bending or breaking conventions does not mean abandoning them entirely. On the contrary, it requires a solid understanding of the rules and a clear rationale for deviating from them. It's about knowing the rules well enough to know when and how to break them. Arguably, it might be considered a sign that you have garnered some expertise in your craft.


EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL RULE-BREAKING IN LITERATURE

Throughout history, many great writers have successfully bent and broken writing conventions. James Joyce, with his stream-of-consciousness narrative in "Ulysses," abandoned traditional punctuation and sentence structure to capture the fluidity of thought. E.E. Cummings, known for his unconventional use of syntax and typography, used these techniques to create powerful visual and auditory effects.


Another example is William Faulkner's "The Sound and The Fury," which employs an unconventional narrative structure to reflect the fragmented and chaotic nature of the characters' experiences. These are just a few examples of how rule-breaking can enhance the literary art.

One of my personal favorite cases of literary rule breaking is the incredible book, “House of Leaves,” by Mark Z. Danielewski. His foray into ergodic literature is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating conglomerations of abnormal formatting and typography you are likely to encounter in this lifetime. Danielewski breaks literary tradition for many parts of his book to make sure that “House of Leaves” is one that you’re sure not to forget anytime soon.


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, writing conventions are vital tools for communication, providing a shared language between writer and reader. However, they are not inviolable laws. They can and should be bent and broken when it serves our creative purposes. The key is to understand the rules thoroughly before attempting to break them. To paraphrase Picasso, "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."


Thank you for joining this week on the Scripta blog, by Huntsville Independent Press. If you were able to gain something by reading this article, then please share it with a friend or colleague. After all, it’s your readership that keeps us alive. Now, onward and upward. As we often say around here, “Have a positive and productive week,” and don’t forget to check in next Sunday for another useful article. See you next time!


Written by:


Joshua Adams

Owner / Publisher

Huntsville Independent Press


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ABOUT HUNTSVILLE INDEPENDENT PRESS


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