Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing 101: With No

With no effort on your part whatsoever, you may make a glaring grammatical error that you don't even recognize. At least, that's what happened to me recently. I was using a different word processing program than usual, and just like that it pointed out a mistake that I've made countless times. That's how I found out that I shouldn't be using with and no together. These words just can't pair up...because without exists.

With No Rules...

With no grammar rules, the world might be a better place...but unfortunately, the rules do exist. And as authors, we are compelled to follow them. So that's why I fully expect to be lambasted for using the words with no...because you're just not supposed to use it. Let me show you why. 

First, I'll correct my own mistakes. The top of this post ought to read Without effort on your part whatsoever... and the top of this section should say Without grammar rules... because this is what's correct. Let's look at a few more examples of what's correct in writing:

She marched forward without fear.

Without words, we cannot communicate. 

I don't know what I'd do without you.

Now technically, I can replace the word without in each of the examples above and replace it with the phrase with no. The meaning wouldn't change, but the melody of the words would. Try reading each sentence out loud, both ways, and you'll hear how wrong it all sounds. With no strikes a discordant note; without flows with the natural rhythm of the words.  It's particularly unstable in the last sentence.

I don't know what I'd do with no you. 

The meaning is the exact same, but this sentence is grammatically incorrect. And because it's incorrect, you can hear the rough places in the sentence if you say it to yourself. Without is the correct way to express any thought that can be conveyed with the phrase with no instead. Use this instead and your words will flow better. Even more importantly, your words will be more technically correct. 

And without any errors in your writing, readers will be free to praise your storytelling instead. So don't give them something to pick over. Use without, because that's the right word, and make all your other words sound more melodious.

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