April 17th is National High Five Day, and we’d like to mark the occasion by giving a high five to our favorite writers. These men and women defied the writing and social conventions of their day, laughed in the face of the grammar police, and wrote the beat of their own drummers.
Slap Me Some Skin, William Shakespeare. According to Mental_Floss, Shakespeare’s plays contain more than 2,200 never-before-seen words. Basically, whenever the Bard couldn’t think of the right word, he straight-up invented it. Some of his neologisms include bedazzled, eyeball, and swagger.
(Honorable mention to Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, who coined one of our favorite words: chortle. Without him, we might never have been able to describe the sound of chuckling and snorting at the same time.)
Down Low, E.E. Cummings. We’ve written about Cummings before, but we just can’t help being drawn to his work. He wrote almost three thousand poems in his lifetime, many of which turn the rules of grammar inside out and upside down. With his unconventional punctuation and capitalization, he deconstructed the language in a way that made it seem fresh and new. Although his fast and loose approach to grammar sometimes makes our internal proofreader want to break out the red pen, we appreciate the masterful way he broke the rules.
Don’t Leave Me Hanging, Ernest Hemingway. In a literary landscape filled with meandering stories, overwrought descriptions, and frilly syntax, Hemingway’s style was startlingly spare. According to Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “Hemingway was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with flowery adjectives and got straight to the point. In short, Hemingway wrote with simple genius.” We salute him for blazing a new, minimalist trail.
Up Top, Langston Hughes. One of the most prominent writers during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Langston Hughes is the godfather of jazz poetry. According to poets.org, “Jazz poetry, like the music itself, encompasses a variety of forms, rhythms, and sounds.” Hughes wrote more than eight hundred poems, including the famous “Dream Deferred,” that explored the African-American experience. Not only did he give a voice to a marginalized people, but he did so with style.
Gimme Five, Edgar Allen Poe. Although Poe is perhaps best known for his gloomy, macabre stories and poetry, he’s also the father of the detective story. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was first published in 1841, long before Sherlock Holmes was even a twinkle in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eye. C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s French detective protagonist, solved the locked-room mystery despite a number of red herrings and false alibis. Without Poe, we might be forced to live in a world without TV crime procedurals like CSI and Criminal Minds.
On the Rebound, Virginia Woolf. One of the foremost Modernist and feminist writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf was a pioneer of the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, which attempted to capture the way people think, feel, and dream. Often chaotic and meandering, her work (like fellow Modernist James Joyce) is sometimes confusing but always rewarding. We particularly recommend her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” which explores the relationship between women, freedom, and creativity, among other things.
Even though we’re grammar geeks here at Grammarly, we appreciate writers who break the rules to make a point. Who is your favorite trailblazing writer? Let us know in the comments!