Writing Rules

Writing, for all of us, is a struggle. So, it’s necessary, sometimes, to reconsider how you go about this complex activity.


Many of the rules that you needed when you first began to write – and which may have been drilled into you by your first English teachers – were designed to help you avoid the problems inexperienced writers have. But those rules may actually hinder you now, as you try to write like a professional in your field.

Standing yellow feather next to open blue book


Before you follow any “rule,” ask yourself why? What will the rule achieve? If you can’t think of an answer and you want to break the rule, go ahead. Ignore it; modify it!

Old Way of Thinking: Your Essay has 3 main arguments/points!

University Way of Thinking: You can have as many arguments as you need!

3 Principles:

Instead of rules, think in terms of 3 principles when writing:

  1. Purpose: What are you trying to do in this paragraph, in this essay? (You may have more than one purpose.
  2. Audience: Who will read your essay, your report, your memo? Why did the professor set this assignment? What is he or she looking for? (If you are writing outside the university – How will your reader use what you have written? What does your reader already know about the topic?
  3. Group Conventions: Not every essay is an English essay. You may be writing an essay or a report in Fashion, Architecture, or Social Work. What will readers in your profession expect? How do social workers or business managers write when they are writing for each other?


Tip Box At University you are encouraged to go beyond stating the obvious or regurgitating facts and theories.
You are encouraged to be a critical thinker and to analyze your topic.