(What Really Suffers)

by B A Dreamer

Today, writers worldwide were saddened to discover the truth about writing guidelines imposed by the publishing community. Under the guise of a desire to help writers get published; agents, editors, and publishers alike have ruthlessly applied their demands. Many thought these guidelines to be “rules”, and followed them without question.

Don’t use the passive voice.

Don’t use adverbs (“ly” words)

Don’t use more than one semicolon in an entire manuscript. (What?)

Don’t use complex sentences.  (The average person is stymied.)

Don’t use sentences with more than 18 words.  (Again stymied.)

Don’t use the word “that” (even in a sentence THAT has to be read twice to be understood—avoid “that” at all costs).

And those are just a few of the “rules” harried writers have sworn to abide—giving up their talent, creativity, and innovativeness. Until, yes, there’s no longer a Charlotte Brontë among them.

But now, a small group of writers from a little known website named Scribophile has ferreted out the truth. Reminiscent of Woodward and Bernstein, fighting for justice, this ensemble of stifled intellect came to the Galactic Herald with their discovery.

“What would you like us to do?” asked the Editor in Chief.

A frail, little woman stepped up. Clearly the ravages of these harsh rules had taken their toll. Her words were beautiful, poetic, eloquent—until she got to 18. She stuttered, seeming not to know what the next word should be. She had reached her limit.

We, here at the Herald, were heartbroken for her, but she valiantly tried again. “It’s just that…I mean it’s just there are others who have suffered.”

She’d done it! Under 18 words and she hadn’t used the word “that”. “But who, ma’am? Who has suffered?”


“Gramma? You mean grammar?” Poor thing, she must be from the east coast.

“Yes-yes, that’s what I mean. I’m sorry; I’m not used to discussing serious issues of the real world with people who contemplate real problems—I write Romance.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am, but why has grammar suffered?”

“Because writers have been browbeaten into following the rules—I mean guidelines—of the publishing industry,” her plaintive tone was inspiring yet heart wrenching, “and we have forgotten THAT Rules of Grammar are the cornerstone of ALL rules for writers.”

She took a slow, deep breath; clearly those 32 words strung together had depleted her energy. She dropped into a chair, looking unreasonably dispirited (HER, not the chair).

“I can see how sad this has made you.”

“Yes. To think of all the beautiful and creative ideas out there, the wonderful stories that will never be read. If no one understands what we’ve written because the grammar is simply nonsensical, we may as well have written that elegant prose into our personal diaries. No one except our relatives will care. It’s just sad.”


Had you known this article was about the importance of writers knowing correct grammar, would you have read it?

Rules of grammar are no more guidelines than a stop sign is a suggestion.

If you’ve not read it, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” is a fun presentation of a few rules of grammar. IMO

An excerpt: “It is sad to think people are no longer learning how to use the colon and semicolon…”

It is indeed.

[Side note related to caption: Following publishers’ guidelines—to the letter—really does stifle creativity, but if we don’t know what we’re doing, we probably better follow their suggestions to some degree.]

(Disclaimer: I torture grammar all the time, but I try not to.)