“I” Before “E” Except After “C” …

I LOVE breaking writing rules if they make my writing better. But I also love find writing rules often considered tried-and-true, can-always-be-counted-on rules. So let’s start with the “i” before “e” except after “c” rule. It’s such a good one!

I know people who swear by this one, but the fact of the matter is it simply can’t be used across the board. Need proof?  Here’s a list of words where that rule simply does not apply:

  • Beige
  • Cleidoic
  • Codeine
  • Conscience
  • Deify
  • Deity
  • Deign
  • Dreidel
  • Eider
  • Eight
  • Either
  • Feign
  • Fein
  • Feisty
  • Foreign
  • Forfeit
  • Freight
  • Gleization
  • Gneiss
  • Greige
  • Greisen
  • Heifer
  • Heigh-ho
  • Height
  • Heinous
  • Heir
  • Heist
  • Leitmotiv
  • Neigh
  • Neighbor
  • Neither
  • Peignoir
  • Prescient
  • Rein
  • Science
  • Seiche
  • Seidel
  • Seine
  • Seismic
  • Seize
  • Sheik
  • Society
  • Sovereign
  • Surfeit
  • Teiid
  • Veil
  • Vein
  • Weight
  • Weir
  • Weird

Know some other “i” before “e” except after “c” rule breaking words? Drop me a comment and share!

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Proof Your Work. Then Proof It…Again

I read the most HYSTERICAL weather forecast last night. Our local meteorologist blogged the following sentence: Tomorrow night the sun will shine and by morning temperatures will drop.

Hmmm. I don’t know about you, but unless you live in the Arctic Circle at a particular time of year, the sun simply does not shine at night. And trust me, I do not live in the Arctic Circle.

And here in lies the problem: writing should be left to the professionals, or if amateurs are doing their own writing, then they should employ the talents of a professional editor or, at the very least, a proofreader, to review their work and clean it up. I mean, come on, this is out there for their audience, their public, to read, and when they write like they are illiterate, how does that reflect on their credibility, or that of the station they work for?

I have to admit, the first time I read that line, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to re-read it. Twice. I couldn’t believe what I actually saw. On the Internet. For all the world to see. And then I laughed so hard I thought I would die. It’s so damn funny!

Which brings me to my point: if you refuse to use a professional writer, or your budget simply won’t allow for it, for the love of all things sacred, please, please, please, proof your work before you publish it to the Internet.

Your audience will thank you for it, and trust me, you will save face!

Want to Write? Get a Plan

Almost all successful writing begins with a response to an idea, experience, problem, or question. It’s hardly ever random. And your response needs some kind of process, even if it’s a rather loose one, which is what I prefer, otherwise I get so caught up in the process of writing I never actually get pen to paper.

So as a jumping off point, any writing response requires the following process in order to get from A to Z successfully:

  • defining a purpose
  • knowing your audience
  • planning
  • drafting
  • revising
  • editing
  • revising
  • revising some more
  • proofing

You can craft your process based off of this one. It may take some trial and error to see what actually works for you; you’ll find it. And once you do, your writing will flow so much more smoothly for you. What it will never do, however, is go from idea to finished product without a number of steps in between. But wouldn’t that be nice for a change?

You Can’t Break the Rules Unless You Know the Rules

So, that seems self-evident enough, right? Yet, time after time, I am lectured by non-writing professionals about the rules of writing and how they simply cannot be broken. Ever. Period.

Really? Well here’s a newsflash: times have changed, and with them, the traditional rules that used to dictate the way we wrote in grammar school have changed as well. In other words, if you’re not a professional writer, you are probably still adhering to the same tired rules that your 5th grade grammar school teacher taught you, and that professional writers long outgrew for a much more sophisticated writing style.

Case in point: I am still corrected on the use of beginning a sentence with the word “and.” Old school. Doesn’t apply any more. In these modern writing times, as evidenced in nearly every modern book in print today, you will find sentences that start with the word “and.” It works. It makes sense. And, it’s dramatic.

Like how I worked that in? And doesn’t it work? And yes, it is dramatic. And I did it three more times!!!!

So, the point is this: refresh yourself on yesteryear’s writing rules, because once you know what they are, you can break them at will to become a much more sophisticated writer.

Well, you can break a lot of them. You really can’t break all of them. That would just be madness.

Not all writing rules are meant to be broken. But you can’t even begin to break writing rules unless you know what the rules of writing are to begin with. And, if you’re still with me, and I’m hoping that you are, that’s exactly where we are going next…Writing Rules 101. Learn them and break them.

Writing IS Hard

Of course it is. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and more importantly, do it well. But, they don’t. Most people hate writing, and most can barely put two sentences, let alone two words, together in a way that makes any sense whatsoever. And that’s where we come in. Writers. And editors. We do the work that others either don’t want to do, or can’t do.

Writers may be crazy, but trust me, there is a clear-cut reason for this. Bear with me. This will all make sense. While we all know that most people would rather gnaw off their own arm than write a single line of copy, these are the very same people who will tear apart and ruthlessly criticize the work that writers do. The work that they hire us to do for them. And while I do believe in the merits of constructive criticism, I take issue with the random rants of those who have no background or experience in editing the English language.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve been asked to make something that is grammatically correct incorrect because the “reviewer” has no editorial background whatsoever, and simply believes the copy is wrong. I am then forced to justify it. Pull out a style manual. Site a grammar rule. Provide an example. Explain why the copy is correct. I mean, seriously, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing for more than 20 years. What I am not is an English teacher. But at times, I feel I am more of the latter than the former.

I shouldn’t complain though. I know it’s an occupational hazard given the field I’m currently in. I do not work in the world of publishing anymore, surrounded by professional writers, editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. It’s a different reality now and I either have to just lower my expectations or accept my role as writer and teacher.

Because … Writing. Is. Hard.