When I first became a copyeditor, my friends got nervous about writing letters to me. I scolded them (because I’m all diplomatic like that), telling them that I would never correct their grammar in an email. My mama raised me better than that. However if they handed me a copy of their resumes, all bets were off.
I try to make my blog posts grammatically correct because I’m a goddamned copyeditor. I use sentence fragments sparingly in my creative writing for effect. I’ve stopped putting semi colons in my poems. A certain amount of adherence to grammar rules depends on the circumstance.
It’s never okay to confuse its and it’s. But contractions? “Didn’t” is fine in informal and even formal published writing. But you’d better write that shit out in your dissertation.
When you write your lawyer, your professor, your publisher, etc., you’d best be sure that you have no grammatical inconsistencies. No fragments, no contractions, no departure from the most anal rules of the English language (look, a fragment for effect!). Do not end your sentences with a preposition. It’s not that it’s wrong to do so, it’s that you want to be using your most formal style.
In creative writing, you can calm the fuck down. Write in fragments, curse, use contractions. But make sure it’s comprehensible to the reader, unless you have a good reason for it to be obtuse.
I have the amazing ability to moderate my editorial eye. In a cover letter, I’ll bust you for capitalizing “department” in “English department.” In creative writing, I’ll let you use sentence fragments to your heart’s content.
What rules are you living by today?