Writing Rules For Rule Breakers

Today I read a fantastic article over at Writer Unboxed called A Singularly Unpopular View of Adverbs by Keith Cronan.

In it, Cronan details how some writing preferences have appeared to become rules without fully being comprehended, which sends authors off doing things to their prose they shouldn’t be doing.

Here are some great excerpts:

We’ve been taught to look out for a certain type of word, regardless of the context in which it is used.


all the while assuming they are automatically improving their writing when the thing they’re cutting may not even BE passive.


It doesn’t encourage comprehension or judgment. Only rote obedience.


Understanding will be gained not by avoiding adverbs, but by learning what they are.

If you’re interested in writing to the best of your ability and you’re sick of everyone regurgitating ‘don’t use adverbs’ (or, as someone in my writing class said and them demonstrated, every word ending with ‘ly’), or other archaic writing rules that you’re sure can’t apply all the time – such as passive voice (when writing past progressive tense it’s very hard to tell the difference), then go and check out the full article. It’s really awesome and well worth the read.


3 thoughts on “Writing Rules For Rule Breakers

  1. Kathy says:

    NOW I understand why he had that thing against “ly” – I’d always thought it was because of how it sounded. Mind you, he would cross out the “ly” on the end of “only”!


    • Lissa says:

      And ‘usually’. Even when the placement of the adverb was pertinent to the text. Sure did teach me bad rules! It would have been awesome to have some grammar lessons, like, AT ALL during my edumacation.


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