“That” vs. “which.”
Punctuation inside or outside the quotes or parentheses?
One space or two after a period?
Rules regarding writing are nearly infinite. The Chicago Manual of Style outweighs my youngest child (and, perhaps, my first car.)
Rules are important.
Except when they’re not.
And that’s why principles trump rules.
If you are writing a technical manual, legislation, or medical procedures, you should adhere strictly to the rules.
If you’re writing for your own fans, your chosen audience, it’s far more important to consistently follow a set of principles.
Sentence fragments? Part of my style, now and forever. If your genre or personal style leans toward greater formality, ask yourself for a real good reason before you confuse your readers with what might appear to be sloppiness.
The emotional impact of my writing, fiction or non-fiction, depends much on matching my speaking style. My live presentations tend toward, er, liveliness. (One of Best Beloved’s tasks is to touch my elbow when she sees folks in the audience looking frightened instead of engaged.) I blurt half-sentences and stomp my foot sometimes.
You’ll never remember everything I try to teach in one of my classes, but if you go home inflamed with passion to implement the bits you do remember, we both win. My goal is to infuse passion, not just knowledge.
Storytelling is all about the vicarious experience. Contrary to what Michael Crichton’s pale imitators think, vicarious experience is not about teaching your readers the structure of DNA so they really enjoy your novel about cloning gone wrong. It is about reaching down their throat and hauling up the terror they’d feel if they were watching a clone of their Best Beloved committing some heinous act.
You do not need data for a scene where your wife brutally murders someone to kick you in the gut.
Facts. data, rules: these are not the stuff of a vivid vicarious experience.
When your readers swallow the last page in a gulp, overwhelmed with emotions you gave them, they will forgive any trespass against the tyranny of a style manual.