I recently downvoted an answer by @what (whose opinion, FWIW, I generally respect) to this question, Effective differentiation of dream sequence from "normal text", not primarily because of the actual advice, but because I feel it should be prefaced with "In my opinion...", "I consider it a best practice to..." or even "Even though many writers feel otherwise...".

It's harder to be objective here, in an arts-based forum, than in more scientific SE sites. We're often giving stylistic advice around which opinions may vary. However, to match general SE practice, I think if our advice doesn't match a commonly accepted standard, we should explicitly indicate that it is a personal recommendation, and explain why it is being recommended (and ideally why others might feel differently). Even if I'm sure --as I often am --that I'm right and the world is wrong, it's still misleading to present my view as though it had universal support.

Is this a correct standard for this SE? Is my solution the right one, or are there better ways to handle this? Does it make a difference that the question was generally framed as seeking an opinion-based answer?

3 Answers 3


I think that when talking about writing, and in particular creative writing, it's pretty clear that all answers are someone's opinion. The best answers will support their assertions with experience and (where possible) citations or references to text that's done whatever-it-is and done it well.

More specifically, I feel that What's answer is a bit limiting but it will work in some cases, and is a valid answer to the question. What's answers are usually good, often quite thoughtful, and always entertaining; a great mix for a writing site. When I disagree I'll leave a comment, downvote if warranted, and move along.

You've done exactly what I would have done. (I didn't downvote, although I can see why you did.) Ideally, we'd preface answers with "in my opinion" but after a while, that phrase becomes simply noise. I think the implicit understanding and context are enough. The comments disagreeing with the answer will also help make it clear that this isn't any sort of ruling from on high. (There's no such thing in fiction writing in any event.)

In the end, users will vote answers up and down and they'll be ranked that way.


Thanks, Neil, I didn't know that you found my answers entertaining. I'm glad to know.

I personally think that every writer has to find their own truth what writing is to them. It is a painful process to overcome the belief that another person can tell you how writing should work for you. As Kate pointed out, we all start out searching for instructions we can follow, and it takes a certain number of disappointing teachers until we finally come to realize that we already know how we must write for our writing to be our own and satisfy ourselves. And that will be the moment we also realize that every answer here implies that it is true only for the person giving it.


I disagree that the "in my opinion" is universally or even widely understood. There are a lot of writers, especially new writers, who seem to think there's a formula for writing well, a set of rules they can follow to achieve perfection. "No passive voice", "no adverbs", "only use 'said' for dialogue", etc. The lack of sufficient "In my opinion"s or "Most of the times"s has made life a lot more difficult for a lot of people trying to learn to write.

At the same time, my understanding of the SE format is that opinions should be avoided in favour of fact. It's awkward...

ETA: In the example at hand, I think the "this is a rule" impression was strengthened by setting off the first sentence in its own paragraph and italicizing the "not". It definitely felt like a rule was being stated, to me.

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    I agree. I don't think opinion is entirely avoidable on a site with this kind of focus, but do think it should be labeled as clearly as possible. Aug 12, 2015 at 4:26

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