I’ve been using a little grammar app while editing my new book so that I have a visual sense of what I’m doing wrong (according to someone else’s standards) as I trim, delete, rearrange, and rewrite—my words passive aggressively underlined, the software wagging its virtual figure at me for all the (in its robo-mind) silly mistakes I’m making.

Most digital writing tools have something like this baked in, and I like having this alternative viewpoint right there in my field of view as I make tweaks, as it helps me maintain a sense of how such things are actually meant to be said, even in cases where I disagree with a specific rule and choose ignore it.

I’m of the opinion, for better and for worse, that we all have the power and the right to mess with language however and whenever we choose.

There are moments in which it makes sense to bend toward the average, non-colloquialized version of whatever it is we’re trying to say, as that ensures more people understand what we’re attempting to communicate, lessening the chance of misinterpretation.

In other cases, though—many cases, I would argue—it’s more fun and interesting and valuable to apply our own, personal linguistic flair to our written work, as it makes engaging with the words we choose to use (and the order in which we choose to commit them to the page) more compelling, entertaining, and often productive, as well, because a unique presentation of information or narrative will be more likely to stick than a dry, bot-like recitation of the same.

None of which excuses shoddy writing, which is something we’re all prone to from time to time, but which ideally mostly occurs not because we’re writing lazily and unintentionally, but because we’re trying things out, upending our own expectations and patterns, and trying to make better use of the raw materials (words, punctuation, grammar) available to us.

These sorts of tools can be useful in that they remind us of where the lines are and how we might color inside them when we want to do that. But they also point at the rules we might choose to break (or bend, or shatter into dust) when we’re keen to compose more us-shaped creations.

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