Some time ago, I saw a fascinating article on Writer's Digest online site, called something like "The Difference Between Writing with Style and Writing Incorrectly." Sadly, I didn't get the chance to read it and now I can't find it.
We've all heard of the Old West style battles between editors and writers, and it got me thinking. Is there really a difference between writing incorrectly and writing with style? The great Stephen King once said, "You must know the rules of writing so you can effectively break them." What's your perspective on writing with style vs. writing correctly? Is there a difference, and what is it? Example(s)?
This reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon. An elderly grammar puritan has helpfully corrected Elvis lyrics: "You are nothing but an old hound dog."
Elvis had style, Grammar Lady was "correct."
Which do you prefer?
Sometime back I was proofing a client's manuscript and came across some truly dreadful grammar. Knowing my client was meticulous, I flagged it and asked. Sure enough, the "wrong" was on purpose. Not all characters speak in perfectly organized sentences and use all the right words.
Dern tootin', they don't.
You won't catch too many gun slinging moonshiners in the hollers of Kentucky asking for whom the bell tolls.
I tried to find further examples for this, but I couldn't. I'll bet the comment column will scare up some though.
And it's not so much editors who engage in fisticuffs on this topic, it's copyeditors. They've had style trained right out of them, and that's ok with me. Someone needs to know that a double Axel isn't the same thing as a double axle.
The trick is, as Stephen King points out, doing this on purpose. If it's on purpose, it fits. If it's by mistake, it's often very jarring.