5 Writing “Rules” That Are Really Guidelines

If you go in search of rules about writing, you’ll find plenty. Some rules you come across will be quite specific, like whether or not to use a comma with a conjunction, and others will be broad, like Strunk and White’s brief but vague directive to “omit needless words.” But when it comes to great writing, not all rules are created equal. In fact, some rules are really more like guidelines. Here are five pieces of good writing advice that you can and should ignore once in a while.

Use the active voice

If you’ve done even a moment’s research on how to write well, you’ve learned that you should use the active voice instead of the passive voice. It’s solid advice, if you treat it as a guideline. In general, the active voice is more direct and concise. It’s the best choice for most sentences. But there are some things that the passive voice can do better.

For example, sometimes it just isn’t important or helpful to specify who performed the action you’re talking about. Here’s an example where the passive voice is the better choice: This house was built in 1960. Rewriting the sentence in the active voice would not only require you to dig up information you may not have, it would also bog down the sentence with an unnecessary detail. A development company built this house in 1960. Does it really matter who built the house? Probably not, unless someone has specifically asked for that information.  See More . . . 



Scroll to Top