Tyra Tanner

To Depart the Path

Or, when it’s okay to ignore the “rules” of grammar, particularly sentence structure.

All righty. Let’s talk about being a rule breaker. There’s a certain glamour associated with rule breaking, a bit of pizzazz that may involve an image in your mind of a young man in black clothes, slicked-back hair, and a somewhat wily grin.

Even for the rule lovers of the world, hasn’t there been a time, a moment, even small and hidden, like a buried secret, when you have wanted to toss the rules to the wind and sprint naked down the street?


Oh, come on.

Let’s do it right now.

Let’s. Break. The. Rules. (You may have thought I meant the naked thing, but let’s not do that one.)

Now, particularly, I’d like to illustrate the situations in which I intentionally depart from the path of correct grammar.

Here. I. Go.

Did you notice that? I just did it.

It's all those one-word sentences I keep thunking into place, like they have a right to stand resolutely alone.

Technically, they're not grammatically correct.

There’s no subject and verb interaction going on, and I think at this point my dear readers are probably saying to themselves, if they have read even a few of the similar books I have recently (check out my Goodreads page here), that, duh, writers do this all of the time.


Why do we do it?

Aren’t the rules there for a reason?

Aren’t they forged by well-meaning, well-intentioned, smarter-than-myself people who know how to embrace clarity of vision and mold the path, brick by brick, that will allow the reader to understand the depth, breadth, and emotional journey of the writer?

Maybe. Maybe not.

There’s this thing called emphasis and another one called pacing that, in my opinion, override the importance of the “rules.” Let me offer the following example from one of my flash fiction stories, "The Blue Hour."

"I imagine them, then.
Pretend I can see their star out of the thousands, millions, billions in the sky.
It would be a little above the horizon, somewhere to the right, and my eyes would scan, scan, until I would find it, there, glowing slightly blue, because it’s so large and hot and ready to burst at the seams." To read "The Blue Hour" on 365 Tomorrows, click here.

In the above example, I cut a subject off of the first part of the second sentence, because in first person, I think the reader intuits who is speaking, and I like the flow of the paragraph better without inserting another skinny, sticking up like a sore thumb "I". I willfully forget to put an "and" after "millions." And then there's all those added words surrounded by commas, like this, and this, just shoved in there, because I like the flow, emphasis, voice, and pacing of them, but honestly, they aren't technically any clause I've heard of.

All that being said, I know some readers dislike it when writers break the rules frequently, so here's where you get to ask yourself: Deep down, are you a rule breaker? Or are all of us sods just dreaming?