I'm writing a poem, and in one line I want to convey that:

You do not mean to cause offense. (So, your words have to be clean.)

Now, for the line to sound more poetic and lyrical, I rephrased it as:

Beware—you do not intend offense.

Is this grammatical? Even if it is, does it sound a bit awkward or unusual?

EDIT I think, you can't intend (noun). But, you can intend to cause (noun).

  • You can take a lot of "artistic license" with poetry
    – Mou某
    Jan 21 '17 at 11:16
  • Unless your poem deals with the complex psychology of people being unaware of their own intentions, inviting your readers to question their own motives, you cannot really warn against intending offense; you would warn against causing offense. Beware you do not cause offense. (or give offense, or "offend"). Jan 21 '17 at 11:59
  • Well, you would have to read the whole poem to understand why beware was used. Actually, it's a riddle poem which I posted on Puzzling SE. Jan 21 '17 at 13:12
  • Here's my poem: puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/48278/… Jan 21 '17 at 14:30

Mark beat me to the punch with almost the same answer I was writing! I'd just back up his response about creative license and the flexibility (or downright slaughter) of grammar rules in poetry by pointing you towards another work, E.E. Cummings Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.

Also, for what it's worth, your sentence is technically okay grammatically because the subject of the sentence (You) is paired with a verb (intend) plus a simple helping verb phrase (do not). The noun 'offense' is an indirect object of your subject's intent, written in a form that can mean either "offensiveness" (as you mean here) or a criminal violation (i.e. "You do not want to commit an offense").

Anyhow, good luck with your poem!


Your example sentence

Beware—you do not intend offense.

does not have any obvious problems with English Grammar. It also doesn't feel like it is an awkward sentence.

Another thing you should also keep in mind when writing poetry (or prose) is that when writing them they are allowed leeway in breaking grammatical and sometime spelling rules in the name of art, especially if breaking those rules helps the poetry to convey meaning beyond what a correctly written English sentence would. As an example, I quote from Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky':

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves.
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

In this example, although he used English sentence structure, most of the words are made up (i.e. not real English words). Art is about experimenting with the medium, (in the case of poetry the medium is language) even if it offends or annoys possible critics. Knowing how and when to break established rules is a good thing though; a rule broken unknowingly will often result in something that rather than being artistically experimental, shows instead that the writer was unaware of the rule(s) they were breaking.


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