writing for consumption
Sometimes writing-for-consumption calls for flouting the rules of expository writing that would normally earn an A from a high school English teacher.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of grammar, usage, syntax, style, and all that. And I had a great high school English teacher who was uncommonly adept at teaching writing. The other English teachers in the school admitted as much, and admired him for it.
Trouble is, he taught expository writing. The kind where you don’t use “you.” Where it’s not OK to use a word like “OK.” Where the first sentence in a paragraph must summarize what the rest of the paragraph is about. Where short paragraphs mean you haven’t developed your case and looooong ones are good provided they stay on-topic. Where a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with. And where you must never start a sentence with a conjunction. And fragments? Verboten.
Here’s the problem. Readers don’t grade your writing using the A through F scale. They resort to more of a pass/fail system. That is, they either read what you wrote, or they don’t.
The odds that they will read it are proportional, not to your skill in expository form, but to your skill in writing for consumption.
That is not to say that knowing the “rules” doesn’t matter. Learning to create sound expository writing provides a great foundation that I cannot recommend highly enough. Professionals break rules not from ignorance, but knowingly and for good reason.
Besides, on the practical side, knowing the rules can help you defend your work to an O.C. client when you choose to break them.