Let’s face it—some rules are meant to be broken. The writing tenets you’ve lived by religiously since grade school no longer apply in most situations, and they might also be preventing you from achieving true literary greatness. When you’re crafting online content for a veterinary audience, following the standard “rules” of writing is far less important than finding a voice that speaks to your intended audience and stays true to your brand, values, and personal style.
While each member of the Rumpus Writing and Editing team has a distinctive voice, we collectively embrace the non-rules listed in Dreyer’s English, a modern style guide that has become a U.S. best seller for good reason. Following traditional rules is helpful for beginners to learn strong sentence structure, but like the pirate code, the “rules” are more like guidelines. Here are some of our favorite outdated writing rules that we give you full permission to break.
#1: Starting a sentence with a conjunction
Starting a sentence with “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” “however,” or “because” has traditionally been frowned upon, but like the others on this list, this rule doesn’t apply in all situations. Starting a sentence this way can sometimes weaken the overall structure, but the occasional conjunction is acceptable. You can feel free to occasionally break this rule, but avoid using it too often and check your nearby sentences to see if they make more sense combined.
#2: Splitting an infinitive
Wondering what an infinitive is? An infinitive is a “to” action statement, such as “to go” or “to buy.” Splitting an infinitive involves placing an adverb smack in the middle, such as “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” As I wrote this famous statement, my grammar checker immediately identified the statement as a problem. But, as you might guess, occasionally splitting an infinitive can create a bold, unique statement, and is really up to your personal preference.
#3: Ending a sentence with a preposition
The idea behind this one is that ending a sentence with a preposition, including “of,” “as,” “at,” “by,” “for,” and “from” weakens a sentence. However, this sentence structure comes naturally in many spoken versions of American English. Good writing should flow naturally, and you might have to create some unnatural sentences to avoid breaking this rule. For example, you could write, “That’s where I come from,” or “That’s from whence I come.” Which sounds better to you?
#4: Writing in the passive voice
You probably don’t realize how often you write in the passive voice until your annoying grammar software keeps pointing it out. Veterinary informational content lends itself nicely to the passive voice, and it can be difficult to avoid completely. As a general rule, try to write in an active voice, but don’t beat yourself up about a few slip-ups. Your writing flow is more important than following the rules every time.
#5: Using the serial comma
According to Dreyer, only savages avoid using the serial or Oxford comma. This is the last comma before the word “and,” separating items in a list. In our opinion, not using the Oxford comma can lead to comical misunderstandings, but to each their own. This one is entirely personal preference or the preference of the style guide you’ve been asked to follow.
The bottom line? The rules aren’t actually rules at all, and according to Dreyer, you should write whatever suits your fancy. Whether you are an aspiring or seasoned writer, the Rumpus Writing and Editing team can support your veterinary business content creation. Contact us or visit our website to learn more about our services, check out writing samples, or get started.