Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I recently attended the Picasso and the Allure of Language exhibition, at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, which examined the painter’s relationship with another art form: writing. The written word inspired Picasso both as a visual artist and as a poet and playwright. If you’ve seen any of his artwork (click on the image in the link above for examples, including illustrations for books), it’s no surprise Picasso didn’t subscribe to traditional rules of language. As he put it:
“If I begin correcting the mistakes you speak of according to rules with no relation to me, I will lose my individuality to grammar I have not incorporated. I prefer to create myself as I see fit than to bend my words to rules that don’t belong to me.”
This passion for innovation was central to Picasso’s longtime and influential friendship with Gertrude Stein, who played around with the rules of language herself. In her lecture “Poetry and Grammar,” Stein said:
“If writing should go on what had colons and semi-colons to do with it, what had commas to do with it, what had periods to do with it what had small letters and capitals to do with it.”
Copy editors, by default, are prescriptivists, who not only follow but enforce the rules. That’s one reason why I like to edit creative writing. Characters can say “I wish I was” instead of “I wish I were” if it’s true to their voice, and authors can choose to use alternative punctuation or none at all. You don’t do away with rules; you just create your own.
So I guess you could say I’m a descriptivist sympathizer. After all, without Picasso and Stein types, we wouldn’t have cubism or stream of consciousness technique or the interrobang.
But it’s probably best they’re not copy editors.
Thanks to Ivy for pointing out the Picasso quote as blog fodder.