A friend who teaches middle school English once said everything we teach about writing is wrong. We tell students to start each paragraph with a topic sentence and avoid sentence fragments at all costs. Then we introduce them to literature that opens with a hook and uses fragments to great effect.
While some “rules” are just plain wrong, others need to be learned before they’re broken. They bring clarity and focus. Not only scientific writing and business correspondence but even poetry strays from them only for a purpose. Strong writers may break the rules to convey a mood, set a tone, engage the reader – not to assert an excuse for incoherent rambling.
Something similar happens with rules of behavior and social interaction. No rulebook can cover every situation. We start by learning rules to show courtesy and respect. As we grow up, we learn to make judgment calls. I recall struggling over how far to participate in morning ceremonies as an American child at a Canadian summer camp, or in worship services of a faith that wasn’t mine. Those questions have no one right answer. Thoughtful adults may break a rule for a considered purpose, not as an excuse for rudeness.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.