5 Writing Rules That Are Really Guidelines: What You Need to Know

5 Writing Rules That Are Really Guidelines: What You Need to Know

When it comes to writing, there are several “rules” that every author has heard at least once. Whether you’ve learned them in school or from reading books on the craft, these guidelines are often presented as absolutes. But the truth is, writing is not so black and white. There are many situations in which it’s perfectly acceptable – and even preferable – to break these so-called rules.

One of the most common rules that writers are taught is to avoid fragments. While it’s true that complete sentences are generally preferred, using fragments can be a powerful tool when used deliberately. They can create emphasis, add variety, or convey a certain voice or tone. So, don’t shy away from using fragments if they serve your purpose.

Another widely used rule is to always write in the active voice. While the active voice is generally more direct and engaging, there are times when the passive voice is more appropriate. For example, when the subject of the sentence is unknown or less important than the action being described. So, don’t be afraid to mix up your sentence structure and use the passive voice when it suits your needs.

One rule that often surprises writers is the “show, don’t tell” guideline. While it’s true that showing the reader a scene or situation can be more engaging and vivid, there are instances when telling is more efficient and effective. For example, when you need to convey a simple fact or summarize a large amount of information. So, don’t feel compelled to always show every detail – sometimes telling is the better choice.

Another rule that writers frequently encounter is to avoid jargon and complex words. While it’s important to communicate clearly and consider your audience, using specialized terminology can be necessary in certain contexts. If you’re writing for an industry-specific audience or discussing technical subjects, it’s acceptable – and sometimes expected – to use jargon and complex words. Just make sure to explain any unfamiliar terms or concepts for those readers who may not be familiar with them.

Lastly, one of the most important rules to remember is that good writing boils down to one thing: communicating effectively with your audience. Whether you’re following all the “rules” or breaking some of them, what matters most is that your words resonate with your readers and convey your intended message. So, instead of getting caught up in a list of “rules,” focus on finding your own voice, being true to your content, and engaging your audience in a meaningful way.

Understanding the Difference Between Rules and Guidelines

In the world of writing, there are rules and guidelines that writers should follow. However, it’s important to understand the difference between these two concepts in order to effectively communicate your ideas and create great content.

Rules are strict principles that are meant to be followed at all times. These are usually learned and established by industry masters or literary figures. Rules serve as a set of standards to maintain the quality of writing. They can involve grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation, among other things. Rules are important because they provide a clear scope and structure for your work, ensuring that it is coherent and understandable.

Guidelines, on the other hand, are more flexible and open to interpretation. They are suggestions or recommendations that can be used as a starting point for your writing. Guidelines are not set in stone and can be adjusted to suit your personal style or the needs of your audience. While guidelines can be helpful, they shouldn’t restrict your creativity or limit your ability to express yourself effectively.

One example is the use of adverbs in writing. Rule number 3 might say, “Avoid using adverbs as they weaken your writing.” However, following this rule blindly can sometimes sacrifice the full impact of your words. Sometimes using adverbs can add a positive tone or emphasis to your sentence. It’s all about understanding the context and knowing when to break the rule.

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When it comes to rules versus guidelines, it’s important to know when to follow the rules and when to use your own judgment. While rules provide a good foundation and ensure consistency, guidelines offer room for creativity and experimentation. Knowing the difference and being able to apply both will make you a more well-rounded writer.

So, why do we have rules and guidelines in the first place? The answer boils down to effective communication. Writing is a means of expressing thoughts, ideas, and emotions. The rules and guidelines serve as tools to help writers communicate their message clearly and concisely. By understanding the purpose behind these rules and guidelines, you can use them to your advantage in order to impress and engage your readers.

One good rule to keep in mind is to always read your writing aloud. This can help you identify any fragments or awkward sentences that may need rewriting–after all, it’s much easier to catch them when you hear them rather than just imagining them in your head. Using your voice to communicate your ideas can also enhance your writing style and give it a personal touch.

So, next time you sit down to write, remember that while rules and guidelines exist, they are not set in stone. It’s up to you as the writer to determine when to follow them and when to break them. By understanding the difference between rules and guidelines, you can craft compelling content that resonates with your audience while staying true to your own voice and ideas.

The Evolution of Writing Rules

1. Avoid Jargon

While it is important to avoid jargon, there are times when using specialized language can be beneficial. Jargon can help to convey meaning more precisely in certain contexts, so don’t be afraid to use it when appropriate.

2. Embrace Sentence Fragments

Contrary to what you may have learned in school, not all sentences have to be complete thoughts. Sometimes, using sentence fragments can add emphasis and impact to your writing. Just be sure to use them strategically.

3. Don’t Fear Adverbs

Many writers believe that adverbs should be avoided at all costs. However, there are times when using adverbs can enhance your writing. Just be mindful of their usage and make sure they contribute to the overall tone and meaning of your text.

4. Use Active Voice

Using active voice is generally considered the best practice in writing. However, there are times when passive voice can be used effectively. The key is to use it intentionally and in a way that adds depth to your writing.

5. Break the Rules for Headlines

Headlines are a different beast altogether. They need to grab attention and entice readers. So, don’t be afraid to break some of the traditional writing rules when it comes to headlines. Be creative, captivating, and compelling.

6. Balance Positive and Negative

While it’s important to express ideas in a positive light, there are times when negative statements are necessary. Finding the right balance between positive and negative can add depth and complexity to your writing.

7. Let Your Ideas Float

Sometimes, the best ideas come when you let your thoughts flow freely. Don’t be afraid to break the rules and let your creativity take the lead. You can always refine and edit later.

8. Subscribe to the “Guidelines”

Instead of following all the “rules” of writing, consider subscribing to the “guidelines” of writing. Understand that there are times when breaking certain rules can actually make your writing better. Use these guidelines to inform your decisions and find your own unique voice as a writer.

Breaking the Rules: When and Why

When it comes to writing, there are many rules that we’ve learned. From grammar to sentence structure to using the right jargon for a specific industry, we’ve been taught that we should always follow these rules in order to impress our audience and be seen as a great writer. However, there are times when breaking the rules can be a positive thing, and even necessary.

In the context of writing, breaking the rules doesn’t mean simply ignoring them for the sake of it. It means knowing when and why it’s better to break them in order to achieve a specific effect or to better target your audience.

1. Breaking the Silence

Sometimes, silence can speak louder than words. Rather than filling your writing with unnecessary text, you might find that leaving some things unsaid can create a stronger impact. Floating a thought in the reader’s mind can be just as powerful as spelling it out in full sentences.

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2. Breaking the Sentence Structure

While it’s important to write in full and coherent sentences, there are times when breaking up the sentence structure can work to your advantage. Whether it’s for emphasis, creating a certain rhythm, or conveying a sense of urgency, playing with sentence length and structure can add depth and uniqueness to your writing.

3. Breaking the “Always Active” Rule

Another rule that can be broken is the idea that your writing should always be in the active voice. While using the active voice is generally more engaging, there are situations where the passive voice can be more appropriate or effective. It can create a sense of mystery or shift the focus from the subject to the object, depending on what you want to convey.

Breaking the rules should always be done with a purpose in mind. It’s not about writing sloppy or careless texts, but rather about experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what is considered “correct.” By breaking the rules, you can find new ways to express your ideas and capture the attention of your audience.

  • Breaking the silence can create a stronger impact.
  • Breaking the sentence structure can add depth and uniqueness.
  • Breaking the “always active” rule can shift the focus or create a sense of mystery.

So, before blindly following the “rules” of writing, consider the context, your audience, and the effect you want to achieve. Don’t be afraid to break the rules if it means improving your writing and making it more memorable. After all, rules are meant to be guidelines, not restrictions.

How to Write Effectively Following Guidelines

When it comes to writing, there are often guidelines or rules that writers are expected to follow. However, these rules are not always set in stone, and they should be seen more as guidelines rather than strict regulations. Here are some tips on how to write effectively while still following the guidelines:

1. Balance Creativity and Clarity

While it is important to be creative and express your ideas, it is equally important to communicate your thoughts clearly. Avoid using overly complex sentence structures or fragments that may confuse your readers. Instead, strive for a balance between creativity and clarity in your writing.

2. Read Your Text Aloud

One effective way to improve your writing is to read your text aloud. This allows you to spot any grammatical errors or awkward phrases that may have slipped through your initial writing process. Reading aloud also helps you ensure that your writing flows smoothly and engages the reader.

3. Learn the “Rules” and Then Break Them

While it is important to have a good grasp of the rules of writing, sometimes breaking them can lead to more effective communication. For example, using a sentence fragment can create emphasis or convey a specific tone. However, it is crucial to understand the rules before intentionally breaking them.

4. Write for Your Audience

Consider your audience when writing. Is it a formal academic essay or a casual blog post? Adjust your writing style and tone accordingly to ensure that the message is effectively communicated to your intended readership.

5. Avoid Overusing Passive Voice

Active voice is generally more engaging and direct than passive voice. While there may be times when it is appropriate to use passive voice, try to limit its use in your writing. Active voice helps to convey a sense of action and makes your writing more dynamic.

6. Use Simple and Clear Language

Don’t overcomplicate your writing with unnecessary jargon or complex vocabulary. Instead, strive for simplicity and clarity. Choose words that are easily understood by a wide range of readers. Remember, the goal is to effectively communicate your ideas, not to impress with complicated language.

7. Edit and Revise

Editing is an essential part of the writing process. Take the time to carefully edit and revise your work, looking for any errors or areas where clarity can be improved. Don’t rush through this step – a well-edited and polished piece of writing can make a significant difference.

Simple Rules For Good Writing

1. Keep It Simple

When writing, aim for clarity and simplicity. Avoid using jargon or industry-specific terms that your target audience may not understand. By simplifying your language, you make your content more accessible to a wider range of readers.

2. Be Clear and Concise

Avoid using long, complex sentences or paragraphs. Instead, break them down into smaller, more digestible chunks. Aim to communicate your ideas in a straightforward and concise manner, as this will keep your readers engaged and make your message easier to follow.

3. Find Your Voice

Each writer has a unique voice that sets them apart. Embrace your own style and let it shine through in your writing. Whether you’re writing a blog post or a literary piece, don’t be afraid to experiment and be yourself. Your authentic voice will resonate with readers and make your writing more compelling.

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4. Know Your Audience

Understanding your target audience is essential for effective writing. Consider their needs, interests, and level of familiarity with the topic. Tailor your writing to suit their preferences and expectations. By doing so, you’ll create content that resonates with them and keeps them coming back for more.

5. Use Positive and Active Language

Avoid passive voice constructions whenever possible. Instead, use active voice to make your writing more lively and engaging. Choose positive language that expresses your ideas in a direct and confident manner. This will help you better connect with your readers and leave a lasting impression.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Rewrite

Writing is a process, and your first draft is unlikely to be perfect. Embrace the mindset of rewriting–after all, the real magic happens in the revision process. Take the time to review and refine your writing, making it better with each pass. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your final piece is of the highest quality.

Write Clear and Concise Sentences

Now, you may be thinking, “Why should I write simple sentences? I want to impress my audience with my literary prowess!” While it’s true that using complex sentence structures can showcase your writing skills, it’s important to remember who your audience is. Most of the time, people prefer concise and straightforward writing that gets to the point quickly.

Writing long and convoluted sentences can confuse your readers and make your content harder to understand. So, if you want to effectively communicate your ideas, it’s best to keep your sentences clear and concise. This means avoiding unnecessary jargon, wordy phrases, and run-on sentences.

Here are 10 tips to help you write clear and concise sentences:

  1. Use simple words and avoid industry-specific jargon that your audience may not understand.
  2. Avoid using passive voice when you can use active voice instead. Active sentences are generally more direct and engaging.
  3. Break down long sentences into shorter ones to improve readability.
  4. Avoid using excessive modifiers (e.g., very, extremely) that can make your sentences longer without adding much meaning.
  5. Use punctuation effectively to create a natural flow in your sentences. Don’t be afraid to use commas, periods, and other punctuation marks to separate ideas.
  6. Eliminate unnecessary words or phrases that don’t contribute to the meaning of your sentence.
  7. Don’t be afraid to use fragments or sentence fragments if they can effectively convey your message. Sometimes, a short phrase can pack more punch than a complete sentence.
  8. Consider the balance between short and long sentences. Varying sentence lengths can make your writing more engaging and dynamic.
  9. Read your sentences out loud to check for coherence and clarity. If it sounds awkward or confusing, consider rewriting–after all, writing is rewriting!
  10. Don’t feel constrained by arbitrary rules. While rules can provide a helpful framework, breaking them at times can lead to more creative and impactful writing.

So, the next time you sit down to write, remember that clear and concise sentences can make a big difference in how your content is understood and enjoyed. Focus on getting your message across in the simplest and most effective way possible. And don’t be afraid to break a few rules along the way!


Who should I consider as my target audience when writing?

When writing, it is important to consider your target audience, which refers to the specific group of people you are trying to reach with your message. This could be defined by factors such as age, gender, education level, interests, and more. By identifying your target audience, you can tailor your writing style and content to better resonate with them and effectively communicate your message.

How does knowing my target audience affect my writing?

Knowing your target audience helps you shape your writing to be more relevant and appealing to them. For example, if your target audience is young adults, you might use a more casual and conversational tone, while if your target audience is professionals, you may use a more formal and technical language. Additionally, understanding your audience’s interests and needs allows you to focus on topics and ideas that are more likely to capture their attention and provide value for them.

What are the benefits of identifying your target audience?

Identifying your target audience has several benefits. Firstly, it helps you create content that is more engaging and relevant to your intended readers. By tailoring your writing to suit their preferences and needs, you are more likely to capture their attention and keep them interested. Secondly, understanding your target audience allows you to address their specific concerns or pain points, helping you to provide more valuable and meaningful content. Lastly, knowing your target audience can also assist you in marketing your writing by enabling you to promote it to the right channels and communities where your intended readers are most likely to be found.

What are some strategies for identifying a target audience?

There are several strategies you can utilize to identify your target audience. One approach is to conduct market research, which involves gathering information about your potential readers through surveys, interviews, or analysis of online behavior. This can provide insights into their demographics, interests, and preferences. Another strategy is to create buyer personas, which are fictional representations of your ideal readers. By outlining their characteristics, motivations, and goals, you can develop a clearer understanding of who you are writing for. Lastly, you can also analyze the existing audience of similar authors or publications in your niche to gain insights into the demographics and interests of your potential readers.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.