“It’s only illegal if you get caught.”
These are two phrases that make me want to reach out and slap some sense into the speaker. I do not, of course, but I always want to.
Rules and laws are designed for the same reason, to force people to show respect for others and for the environment. They are designed to keep people from harming themselves or others. I was called a ‘Corporate dog’ because I didn’t allow an employee to use a sick day based on his being sick of working. Not a joke: he ran through his vacation pay early in the year and was facing ‘unpaid leave.’ Rules don’t always make sense, but they are written for a reason and should always be respected.
The only rule I intentionally break is grammar rules. I like to view grammar rules as road signs for the reader. Punctuation guides the speed and intersections and grammar guides the reader through the environmental changes. Like not passing on a hill. As a fiction writer I need to twist the rules a little for dialogue to make sense. I need to avoid a few stuffy rules to keep the reading experience from become tangled like a fly in a web. If a sentence makes sense, conveys the intended meaning, I consider it grammatically correct.
Did I ever get burned in twisting the grammar rules. Not really, but one overly-strict, creative writing instruct did get a little bent out of shape. She criticized my write to the point of turning my paper into a red mass of scribbles. Seriously, it looked like someone murdered my paper and it was bleeding red ink. Simply restated, she said it was very creative but was full of grammar errors. I obtained the assistance of an English Professor and we went through the writing correcting ever breach of grammar. When we finished each and every phrase was stiff with grammatical correctness. I resubmitted the paper expecting more red ink. It was returned with a note saying it was nicely written but wasn’t very creative. I resubmitted both papers and an addendum stating the impossibilities of achieving creative perfection while living under the tyranny of grammar rules. I also submitted a few photocopied pages of great writers who used the same grammar distortion that I had. I was hoping she would correct their errors and remind me again that great writers learn to follow the rules while writing masterpieces so I could point out that the writers were already masters. She didn’t fall that way; instead, she returned the work with a grade and a statement that said the writer whose work I represented were masters that knew exactly which rule to ignore and which to cling to. She pointed out that I have not mastered writing.