Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Spotlight (Elmore Leonard)

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and the rhythm of the narrative.” – Elmore Leonard

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Elmore Leonard, the author of this quote, is an American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. His career boomed in the 1950s with his Westerns and continued to grow as he branched out into crime fiction and suspense thrillers. His most well-known pieces are “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight,” “Hombre,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Justified.” Known and commended by critics for his strong dialogue and interesting use of grammar, Leonard never let the mechanics of writing get in his way.

Although Leonard had his degrees in writing and philosophy, his focus on writing was never restricted by composition 101. However, that does not mean that he simply ignored the rules. He incorporated them throughout his writings and only ignored them when doing so positively influenced his writing.

Has anyone else found it helpful in their own writing to ignore certain grammatical rules?

Happy Writing Everyone!

31 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Spotlight (Elmore Leonard)”

  1. If a writer of fiction is a “stickler” for correct grammar usage at all times, the results will be stilted, boring, unnatural-sounding, and sleep-inducing. Especially when writing dialogue. Leonard was one of the best, and a good one to study (by reading his work).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe one of most important aspects for the fiction writer is to learn proper punctuation in dialogue. I see SO MANY writers eager to get their work “out there” that the dialogue punctuation is atrocious. Most (if not all) good writers are readers first. In my opinion, reading extensively (hopefully from early childhood) is the best education a prospective writer can get. Just my two cents. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

          1. I in no way intended to “downgrade” a good education. A good education is a plus. My meaning was directed at sloppy dialogue tag punctuation more than anything else. Simple example:
            “Sherry’s not here. I believe she drove to the store.” Amanda said. “(Period used at the end of the dialogue where a comma is needed. Things of that nature. I’ve come across MUCH worse.)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. It was drummed into me when I was in school that usage determines grammar and vocabulary, not the other way around. Such is the legacy of a living language like English. Pedants who rail against it are just yelling at the tide not to come in. Viva anarchy!…or at least variation 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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