Dr. Judith M. Newman

It Depends

There are no absolute rules for writing!

The "good news" is writing is a transactional process—you are changed by what you write just as the writing changes as you're producing it.

That means:

  • You're free to experiment
  • You're free to invent your own way of expressing your thoughts
  • You can break the "rules" in grammar books and style guides
  • The sky's the limit

The "bad news" is writing involves making decisions. When you ask yourself a question about some aspect of writing, the answer will be "It depends...."

Your decisions are affected by many factors:

  • The purpose of the writing
  • Who you're writing it for
  • How expert your audience is
  • How widely it will be disseminated
  • How much time you have to work through it

Remember, style guides only offer suggestions. Even spelling isn't absolute—are you using American, British or Canadian English? While there is pressure towards standard grammar and spelling, understand that these aspects of language are constantly changing.

Your best resource is other authors. Read to see how other authors have done what you're trying to do. There's a wide range of writing available—some of it reader friendly, a lot of it puts obstacles in the reader's way. Try to "feel" what those authors who make it easy for you to understand have done with their writing. Emulate it.