Are Rules Meant To Be Broken?

I came across this picture and actually laughed out loud.

Of course being a grammar freak, my first instinct was “wait, shouldn’t it be how to write well?”

I think this picture encompasses the very essence of breaking rules. The first thing we learn after forming sentences is grammar and punctuation. I think some rules are essential to ensure your point is evident. For example, “We don’t need no education.” Are you trying to say you need education or you don’t?

On the other hand…haven’t you heard the saying, “rules are made to be broken.” I think the rule that “I” shouldn’t be used in academic papers needs to be reconsidered, because sometimes you do want to state your opinion and the “I” part is kind of necessary. On that note, the use of contractions in formal papers is a good rule because it enforces the tone of the paper, but sometimes it doesn’t flow if you try to avoid using contractions…so I think it should be more on a case-by-case basis. I also think rhetorical questions could be used really effectively, especially in persuasive or argumentative papers.

I wonder what all of you think of this! Do you think rules are rules for a reason? Or are they meant to be broken? How do rules fit with your writing style? Do the application of rules change when you’re writing in different mediums and genres?

What do you think? (ps. This isn’t a rhetorical question.) 😛

2 thoughts to “Are Rules Meant To Be Broken?”

  1. This is really interesting! Thanks for posting. I think that different genres have different rules, and all rules have exceptions. I also think that the rules hold… until they don’t. What I mean about that is we learn all those rules in order to know when to break them. We learn in school not to start every paper with, “hi, my name is Madelaine and I am going to tell you about…” But the author of Clifford is quite successful (each of the books starts with, “hi my name is Emily Elizabeth”). I think that not using “I” was just a rule to learn so now we can make conscious choices to use “i” and have a reason, instead of using I superfluously. Rules make us conscious of breaking them to make our writing better, and in that sense, make conscious decisions in our writing. As college students, I feel like we are getting to that point where “I” is ok, and if a paper starts with “Hi, my name is…” it likely has a message, rather than being there for the sake of an easy intro.

  2. I definitely was conditioned to follow a lot of these rules from a very young age! Not using “I” in papers was a big one, and a “rule” that I struggled to break freshman year in my First-Year Writing Course. I think that the rules are helpful for very young writers who need direction in how to write in an academic setting rather than expressing themselves conversationally. However, these rules are so enforced that it can be difficult to discern which cases the rules should be broken when you mature as a writer.

    I believe the rules are meant to be broken depending on the tone, audience, or genre of your writing. The rules, then, are more like guidelines. The distinction between writing “rules” and writing “guidelines” becomes clearer as you have more experience with writing and are exposed to a plethora of different writing styles.

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