Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a grammar snob. Most of my writing is riddled with things the fatcats at MLA headquarters wouldn’t approve of1. Dangling my participles, the reader is forced to find their proper subject. I love nothing more than to maniacally use split infinitives, imagining the horror Strunk and White would feel upon reading the phrase. And as for emoticons appearing in published writing, all I have to say is : | ===> (that’s right, that’s me sticking my creepily-long tongue out in defiance).
Little known fact: E. B. White (no relation) was once arrested for dangling his participles during a public reading of Charlotte’s Web.
But there are a few grammatical/stylistic rules I hold near and dear to my heart: always use serial commas, as with your love, justify your text, and never, under any circumstance, use a semi-colon. To quote someone I say is one of my favorite authors so I look smart even though I’ve only read like one of his books:
Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
-Kurt Vonnegut, “A Man Without a Country”
Preaching to the choir, Kurt. No one likes a transvestite hermaphrodite, not even in punctuation form (sorry ampersand…. it’s not you, it’s me). Yet one of my favorite stylistic tools has come under fire from a member of the literati over at The Paris Review, who frowns like this : ( upon the use of bullet points and numbered lists in creative writing. He writes:
The numbered essay is a tic. It’s a way for a lazy writer to string together ideas without attempting to chart the myelin that connects them. The western world is confusing, confused, random, atomized, unsourced, diverse, unequal, ironic, relative, scary, disconnected, tedious, and full of Michael Bay–style fast cuts. More than ever we need writers who have the courage to take the time to explain it with humility and not quarter-clever posturing.