Writing “rules” are usually just styles

writing rules provoke response

Should you capitalize items in bullet points? Punctuate them? People have strong opinions about matters like these. However, most of the time, what they believe are inviolable rules are actually just styles and personal preferences. People get remarkably worked up about those “rules.” And as someone who creates copy for a living, it’s a constant … Read more


I’ll often receive emails asking me about specific rules of word usage.  Or when I submit copy to a client, one of the reviewers will send it back with a comment asking whether I know the rule about something.

The grammarians in the crowd will hate me for saying it, but there really aren’t any rules about writing. There are simply preferences that the people who control the writing expect to see.

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Before starting my own business, I worked for five different ad agencies. As part of my job at each, I had occasion to write a variety of scripts — for everything from radio commercials to TV spots to presentations and training videos. Each of those agencies expected scripts to be set up a certain way, and most presented that way as “the industry standard that everyone uses.”

Yep, you guessed it. All five formats were very different.

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