Breaking the Rules in Style: Winston Weathers’ Grammar B

In “Breaking the Rules in Style,” Tom Romano offers a summary of Winston Weather’s “grammar B,” which allows for “variegation, synchronicity, discontinuity, ambiguity, and the like” in writing (8). It involves the cultivation of “errors” like sentence fragments (“crots”), labyrinthine sentences and orthographic variations (I prefer neologisms) to create an alternate grammar of style.

See

  • Romano, Tom. “Breaking the Rules in Style.” The English Journal 77.8 (Dec. 1988): 58-62 (download);
  • my summary of Weather’s An Alternate Style: Options in Composition (Rochelle Park, NJ: Hayden, 1980) (download); and
  • Elbow, Peter, “Collage: Your Cheatin’ Art.” Writing on the Edge (1997) (download).

See also

  • Bishop, Wendy (ed.), Elements of Alternate Style: Essays on Writing and Revision (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1997) (one chapter is here for download), and
  • Schroeder, Christopher L., Helen Fox and Patricia Bizzell (eds.), ALT DIS: Alternative Discourses and the Academy (Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, Heinemann, 2002).

Weathers’ rationale to write “outside the box”:

What I have been taught to construct is: the well-made box. I have been taught to put “what I have to say” into a container that is always remarkably the same, that — in spite of varying decorations — keeps to a basically conventional form: a solid bottom, four upright sides, a fine-fitting lid. Indeed, I may be free to put “what I have to say” in the plain box or the ornate box, in the fragile box or the sturdy box. But always the box — squarish or rectangular. (1)

And I begin to wonder is there isn’t somewhere a round box or an oval box or a tubular box, some sort of container that will allow me to package “what I have to say” without trimming my “content” to fit into a particular compositional mode, that will actually encourage me to discover new things to say because of the very opportunity a newly-shaped container gives me (even though I can never escape containers — e.g., syntax — altogether), that will be more suitable perhaps to my own mental processes, and that will provide me with a greater rhetorical flexibility, allowing me to package what I have to say in more ways than one and thus reach more audiences than one. (2)

P.S. Don’t forget Gertrude Stein, “On Punctuation,” Lectures in America (1935; Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1985) 214-22 (download via Kenneth Goldsmith) — because “[t]here are some punctuations that are interesting and there are some punctuations that are not” (p. 214). Indeed.

And see my “Erratology (not hamartiology).”

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