Writing Tips

Writing Tip: Learn Rules to Break Rules

“You must learn the rules before you break them.”

Have you ever heard this saying before? It’s quite popular, even in the academic world where you would think we would never say such a thing.

The idea behind this is that we must first learn the rules of punctuation, active versus passive voice, proper syntax, points of view, use of adverbs, etc., before we break them.

You might be asking, “If I’m breaking the rules, then why is it necessary to learn them at all?”

When you break these writing rules, you don’t do it willy-nilly, you do it with a specific goal in mind. For instance, one common rule of writing is that the author never switches points of view. Consider the world-renown Harry Potter series which is primarily told from Harry’s point of view. However, it occasionally drifts away from Harry in these following scenes: the OPENING SCENE OF THE NOVEL (Harry’s only a baby so we get the Dursley’s point of view) and in Snape’s house as he makes the unbreakable vow (Harry isn’t there).

This rule of remaining in a consistent point of view was broken because it was necessary for the story.

As you can see, sometimes rules must be broken; however, having the knowledge of the rules and why they’re important also plays a role in maintaining the quality of your work. These scenes were necessary in the Harry Potter series and therefore, Rowling broke the rule. However, knowing how important the rule is in the first place keeps Rowling in check for the majority of the novel and draws in readers with a consistent narrative.

Image result for j k rowling gif queen

*If you enjoyed today’s Writing Tip be sure to check out additional tips under the “Writing Tips” category on my home menu! Have questions about writing? Leave a comment below!

This is only one example of a rule that was well-broken.

Can you think of others?

Happy Writing Everyone! Get out there and break some rules!!! (Intentionally of course)


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5 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Learn Rules to Break Rules”

  1. Good info, KaylaAnn. I’ve used multiple first and third POVs in two separate books and both worked well (for me.). It is very important to “know” the rules before breaking them for a specific reason, otherwise you might leave the reader in the dark as to what you intended to pull off. Also, never let a strict English major edit your dialogue! (I say this halfway in jest, but I’ve seen strict language constructionists destroy good dialogue by red-lining the fine touches of effective dialogue.) 🙂
    –Michael (5 x 100 wds.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yup you are totally correct! English majors are great but make sure they’re not grammar nazis before you hand over your work. They might mean well, but there are rules meant to be broken, especially in dialogue!
      500, 500, 500….

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm I see where you’re going but I think that would be too bad for the reader and detract from the book. But you could definitely show your character writing something down an s then “showing” the reader what that looks like: mistakes and all.


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