On Correctness Contradicting Voice

I had a corollary thought to my semicolon/comma splice rant from a couple days ago, and that was about the contradiction that sometimes happens between correctness and authorial voice.

This thought goes two ways.  First, I referenced an author who chooses the comma splice over the correct semicolon because, stylistically, aesthetically, he prefers that.  I cannot imagine that his editor let three per page go, so at some point they had that conversation, and his point about voice won the argument.

Second, I had this argument with myself after that critical review from someone who thought I used too many semicolons. I wondered whether I really ought to cut back on them.  Certainly I am more conscious of how many I am using now, but to my aesthetic I didn’t overuse them in the first place and do not, now.   I realize when I use them that I could make two sentences, or that I could add a conjunction.  I know when I write long, compound and complex sentences that would be right at home in a Dickens or Austen novel, that I could simplify them.  I could find other ways to express that thought or that string of thoughts.  But the fact remains that my mind tends to form thoughts in long, closely entwined strands rather than short individual hairs. 

I could “fix” my prose to conform to someone else’s standard–I could find other ways to say the same thing–but doing so would be saying it in someone’s voice besides my own.  So I think the best standard to use is the one I always have: does my writing allow for “instant comprehension” by the reader?  If not, then I need to revise.  If so, then my words reflect my mind and my aesthetic, and don’t need to conform to anyone else’s.

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2 Comments

Filed under Ramblings, Writing

2 responses to “On Correctness Contradicting Voice

  1. You have to be true to yourself, as a writer. As an author who ever wants to improve, I take a good look at critiques like that. I’m not afraid to “murder my darlings,” within reason. Myself, I try to have a healthy mix of commas, semi-colons and other options.
    I noticed your post had not a single semi-colon.
    🙂

    • I certainly agree that any criticism should be considered very carefully. Sometimes it might be what amounts to a difference of aesthetic opinion, but other times it might be pointing out a problem that almost any reader would have. And, yes, a healthy mix of punctuation is always best! Unless you’re Cormac McCarthy. But he is the exception that proves the rule…

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!

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