Writer’s rules: Follow or break them?

You will find plenty of rules to writing, from grammar, punctuation, to even rules you should follow in the specific genre you’re writing in.  I’m something of an anarchist when it comes to rules.

Many agree that following proper grammar and punctuation is a given. Without writing properly in the form and rhythm of sentences, your story sounds flat, jagged, and altogether unpleasant to read. Not everyone is a spelling Nazi, but for the most part, its understood you need to know the English language in order to write. (Or whatever language you write in).

Rulebooks state you should read proficiently. In particular, you should fully understand the genre. For instance, romance demands a formula to the story with an emphasis on the relationship between characters. Science Fiction demands comprehension of the laws of science, while murder mysteries should incorporate an understanding of how murders are handled by the police.

For every rule, however, you’ll find a published author who broke it. Some authors dare to create their own genre, or even publish based on a quirky writer’s Voice. So what does this say about those rules? Some were horrible spellers such as  Earnest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Keats, among others.

So consider they’re not really rules as much as guidelines. Obviously editors and the publishing industry want would-be writers to submit manuscripts that follow their guidelines, (which are more rules)  but there are many factors involved in making a good stories.


2 Replies to “Writer’s rules: Follow or break them?”

  1. I agree with at least one teacher I had in school who said, “you should learn what the rules are before you decide to break them.”
    Rules do help the writer to keep his writing clear (should he or she desire to do so) so that the reader has at least a chance of understanding what is being said or meant.
    The reader should not have to struggle to read a word because it’s spelled so badly he can’t tell what it is.
    Then again – he the writer just wants to spin off into his own world , be a free spirit, why not?
    Just don’t expect too many to jump in and go along for the ride.
    So – over all – Learn the rules. Then decide what to do next.


    1. Very good point. I agree. Its always good to see what the rules are, then you can see which ones you can try to break. Some work, some don’t. A good book on the subject is The Renegade Writer by Linda Formichelli / Diana Burrell.


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