Finding Your Rhythm: First, Throw Grammar Out the Window

I have a friend who’s a drummer. Everywhere we go, he’s always tapping out a rhythm–on the steering wheel in his truck, on the table of a pizza joint, on the inside of my palm as we walk down the street. Rhythm is a part of his everyday life; he feels it in everything he does, and that’s what makes him a great musician and songwriter.

But rhythm isn’t only important in songwriting–all writing is made up of syllables and stresses, long and short sounds, pauses and flow. I know I’ve read emails from coworkers which make me feel like a wooden soldier marching along, stiff-legged and jerky, because the words are strung together so haphazardly. Of course, it might be you’re trying to make the reader feel like they’re a passenger in a car driven by a brake-happy old lady. The point is to be aware of the rhythm your words create. You’re creating a mood for the reader, whether you’re aware of it or not, based on how your writing carries them along.

I think one of the hangups which can cause writers to break their flow and rhythm is feeling the need to stick closely to grammar rules. Not splitting infinitives, for example. Who made that rule? Why does it matter? If your meaning is understood, isn’t the language doing its job–communicating ideas to others?

I have to admit, I can be a stickler for grammar at times. No one wants to wade through a mess of grammar mistakes when they’re reading. The key, I think, is to understand grammar rules first, and then to not be afraid to break them when needed–whether for the sake of meaning, flow, rhythm, or story. (See what I did there? Splitting that infinitive? Heck yeah I did it.)

So, go study up on your grammar–then throw it all out the window and write something with rhythm.

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