Jul 262007

I’m an occasional reader of a blog by US based business writer Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. This lady talks a lot of sense when it comes to writing effectively for your target audience — be it in a piece of business writing, a blog or anywhere else. Her post from the 23 July — The Only Rule Is What Works for Readers — really struck a chord with me.

Over the years when I was working in IT, several of the companies I worked for attempted to implement “out of the box” project / programme management methodologies. These systems (like “PRINCE”, Ernst & Young’s “Navigator” and others) laid out a strict and exhaustive set of rules, guides and measures for managing every aspect of a project’s life cycle. The trouble was that you’d end up spending more time and effort satisfying the requirements of the methodology than you would actually achieving the goals of the project. It was a farcical situation — real “tail wagging the dog” stuff.

In each case when I suggested that we didn’t need some elements of the methodology — that we could pick and choose the parts that were most relevant, tailoring the methodology to our needs so that it added tangible value — management looked at me as if I’d grown an extra head.

Imagine: picking and choosing the rules that suit a particular scenario… whoever heard of the like?

I’ve always maintained the same thing about writing. The established rules are there as pointers to guide us along a specific path, but sometimes (often?) the situation demands a detour. At the end of the day the important thing is that a piece of writing connects with the reader, and that it evokes the desired response… period! And if that means treading on the toes of a few grammatical pedants, then so be it.

So go on, break a few “rules” if you feel it makes your writing more effective. You might even enjoy it!

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  3 Responses to “Business writing rules are there to be broken”

  1. Calvin, thank you for this excellent example. I am pleased to see your broader application of the rules question I wrote about.

    More than that, I am glad to be introduced to your site–and the chicks–and will definitely return.


  2. Thanks Lynn, you’re very welcome.

    I’m glad you like the site. Look forward to reading more nuggets of writing wisdom on your Business Writing Blog soon.



  3. […] most important thing to remember, as always, is that when you’re writing rules are never absolute. They offer guidance, but if breaking rules helps you convey your message more effectively, do it! […]

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