40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 38

Welcome to 40 Days of 3 Questions!

For the next few weeks, meet here every morning with a notebook or document to answer three questions about writing, about your status quo as a writer, or about the writing life. You can answer briefly and go about your day, or you can use this as a warm up exercise before your regular writing schedule. Whatever works for you, works for me.

Day 38 Questions:

  1. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens?
  2. Why do you hate this rule?
  3. Do you reject this rule or respect it?

You may post answers in comments or keep your thoughts private–your choice!

And here is today’s pretty picture:

cop car

Never convicted!

10 thoughts on “40 Days of 3 Questions – Day 38

  1. I think I at least try to respect all the writing rules and really can’t think of one that annoys me so much I’d blow it to smithereens. I guess, if anything, it annoys me when I make a stupid mistake in my writing then realize it after I’ve already hit “send.” Commas also trip me up. We need to use more commas, I think.


  2. 1. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens?
    The fake rule that you cannot end a sentence in a preposition.
    2. Why do you hate this rule?
    It’s something someone made up and it’s not valid in English. Someone assumed you shouldn’t do it, because you can’t in Latin. Which is ridiculous.
    3. Do you reject this rule or respect it?
    Totally reject it. It’s not something I can live with. (Try saying that without the ending preposition—it makes everything awkward and not readable.) (Splitting infinitives is another one I reject for the same reason.)


    • I second Kaye’s comments about prepositions. Most times what we come up with to avoid it is so convoluted that the sentence becomes awkward. The rule was one person’s preference, and people still stupidly observe it. They are afraid if they don’t, they will be viewed as making a mistake.


  3. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens? Any rule that starts with “Eliminate this word” or “never use…”

    Why do you hate this rule? I hate absolutes. It may be true that you should sparingly use adverbs or something else, but to say a legitimate part of speech should “never’ be used is ridiculous.

    Do you reject this rule or respect it? I am always looking to make my writing as tight and precise as I can. So I respect the spirit of the rule, even if I don’t follow the letter (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).


  4. Ann Vitale
    I heartily dislike the rules about em dashes and ellipses. Although I do respect them at times, usually when writing non-fiction, I also break them regularly when writing fiction. Trying to use them correctly slows down my writing and editing to correct usage sometimes results in stilted instead of flowing thought or sentences. I believe many readers don’t know or care if the rules are used correctly and understand the breaks in narrative or dialog. So……I write for the reader.


  5. Like Liz, I hate rules that tell you there are certain words or constructions you can’t use. This is ridiculous. English is a big, messy, beautiful language and it’s all out there and available. Rules like, “the only dialogue tag you can use is ‘said.'” Yoiks.
    The other one I hate is “no head hopping.” This is a great rule for beginners, but I have read some brilliant books that shifted POV from paragraph to paragraph or even withing paragraphs. As long as the reader isn’t confused…
    Then there are the writing rules like, “To be a writer, you must write everyday,” or “To be a writer, you must rise at 5:00 am,” or whatever. These are just ways people say to others, “You can’t be a writer.” Reject them. Do it your way. Just do it.


  6. I have never figured out when to use a semicolon. When my editing software tells me I need to put one in, I rewrite the sentence into two sentences just to avoid it. Semicolons seem so unnatural. Sometimes I like to start a sentence with ‘And’. And why not? As far as short words, I see nothing wrong in throwing in a word that may not be commonly used but hits the mark in getting a thought across. I know it can disrupt the flow of the reader, but heck, what is wrong with learning a new word? It is easier since I write historical mysteries though I was surprised when I gave one of my sisters a chapter to read and she asked me what an ‘octoroon’ (1/8 black) was and what were broadfalls (men’s pants before Levi Strauss).


  7. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens? As I am still learning the rules, I’m not in a position yet to blow any away. In life I generally learn the rules and then decide which work for me. I don’t blow them away necessarily, I just ignore what doesn’t work. Unless it’s a safety or life-threatening issue. Those rules I follow for my fellow humans.
    Why do you hate this rule? In general, if I run into a rule that doesn’t work for me I get annoyed with it, but I try not to obsess over it. One of my failings is constant rumination over things I can’t fix which is why I choose to ignore those things that annoy me.

    Do you reject this rule or respect it? Rules that don’t work for me may be fine for someone else. So, although I reject it for me, I’m not going to interfere with someone else respecting it. Just don’t try to push it onto me.


  8. 1. What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens? That you can’t break the rules of writing.
    2. Why do you hate this rule? It can restrict writers to producing mechanically perfect, but unimaginative prose.
    3. Do you reject this rule or respect it? As I’ve told students over the years, it’s good to know the rules of writing first–then you can deviate. For instance, I know the rules about writing complete sentences. But I love fragments too. Oops—is there still that rule about not starting a sentence with ”But”? That’s the other thing about rules–they change through the years.


  9. 1.) What writing “rule” would you like to blow to smithereens? I hate the ‘write what you know’ rule.
    2.) Why do you hate this rule? If this were really true, then only serial killers could write about serial killers. Nonsense!
    3.) Do you reject this rule or respect it? I reject this rule in the face of so many delightful historical novels written by writers who don’t time travel.


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