I have a confession to make: I am in the midst of a love affair with the comma. I didn’t mean for it to happen, really. I didn’t even know it was going on until I was so deep in it I couldn’t stop. I cannot describe my love for the comma.
I should probably start by explaining my deepest desire: rhythmic writing. That being said, I need commas to direct my reader when to pause, to breathe, to take a half beat and bask in the lilting language. Now, I know that commas can become a crutch, and I fight that fight every day, but I refuse to give up what I have made with the comma.
On the other hand, it comes to that moment, the moment when I want to put a period and know, according to “the rules” I must put a comma, the moment that makes my nose itch and my back twitch, the moment when grammar tells me I cannot start a sentence with “but.”I can still hear my elementary school teachers reciting their usual reminders, “We never, ever start sentences with ‘but’ or ‘because.'”
“But I need to!” I whine, to no one in particular, since the voice of grammar is only in my head, scolding me for such lazy linguistics.
Let’s face it, sometimes, a sentence just needs to start with “but.” I know that some of you reading this will shake your heads vigorously, crying out, “It isn’t so!” BUT…it’s the truth. When writing freely and rhythmically, in the voice of a person or a person’s consciousness, beginning with “but” is all that makes sense. When I fight my urge and follow the rule, I can imagine my character halting in his or her action just long enough to look into the fourth dimension that is my vision of them and accuse me: “People don’t really talk like that. I’m the one talking, and I want to start my next sentence with but.”
This brings me to my next annoyance: the green squiggly grammar line in Microsoft Word telling me that I have created a fragment, my sentence is not complete. In fact, Spell Check, that sentence is complete. It is exactly how I wanted it.
Now, I admit, sometimes Word gets me out of some pretty embarrassing misadventures in writing. However, I have self-diagnosed my mild OCD, and I hate to see that little green line disrupting the serenity of my beautifully black and white page.
What grammar rules can you not live without? What grammar rules irk you to your core?