At my day job, I am a scrupulous adherent to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the Canadian Press Style Guide, the Government of Canada’s The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing and more. From years of working in corporate communications, my brain holds a thick compendium of grammatical rules. If I come across something I don’t know, I look it up. I am strict and thorough and liberal with the red pen, whether reviewing my work or others’. Along with teammates, I have been referred to as the Grammar Police.
When writing for myself, I am as loose as a swing in the wind.
While I remain tethered to the basics of grammar, when writing fiction I allow myself freer reign. Does the word outsiderness exist? It does now. How about an undergarmented paper doll? You bet. If it sounds right, I’m happy to let it be.
If Shakespeare can make a character bedazzled and Dr. Seuss can create a nerd and Milton can coin pandemonium, what’s stopping me from using a word if it works, even if it doesn’t (yet) appear in the dictionary?
I am also a faithful devotee of sentence fragments. While I read other authors’ novels and admire how each sentence has a subject and a verb, I can’t manage to follow that notion myself. They say a writer should find his or her own voice, and sentence fragments are apparently me.
All said, while my personal writing remains clean and as error-free as one set of eyes can make it, it has a playfulness my corporate writing lacks. It’s also infinitely more fun to take an idea and run with it, slipping in grammatically naughty bits as the mood moves, than to be chained to reference books and the rules of the day.
Just don’t tell the Grammar Police.