Better Know What You're Not Doing
"Good writers can break the rules to create wonderful effects, but you can be sure they know what rules they are breaking" (Clark and Scanlan 295).
This piece of advice rings true in all kinds of writing. We need to have our foundations intact before we can climb to the top of our tower of technique and make a fearless leap into the sea of reader expectations. To borrow the example from the text, when Cynthia Gorney left out the name of Dr. Seuss's dog, we can bet it wasn't because she just didn't think to ask for it. There was a certain effect she either wanted to create or thought would be ruined by mentioning the name. In another area of writing, it is unlikely that someone whispered to e.e. cummings, "Hey, man, you forgot to capitalize, like, everything," and cummings whispered back, "Shoot, you're right. Oh well, just leave it, maybe no one will notice."
As writers, it is our job to master the basics of storytelling, especially in journalism when our words are sometimes the only source of information readers consult. If the purpose for a convention is unknown, then when we go our own way, so to speak, we don't know what we're risking. It's true that journalism is brimming with writers willing to push the envelope and delve into unmarked territory, but the people who come back successful and relatively unscathed are the ones who knew why they were braving the wilderness in the first place.
For more views on these pages, click here.