Grey vs. Black and White

RulesThere are rules for just about everything.
The AP Stylebook tells us when to capitalize, how to use honorary titles, what are appropriate abbreviations – essentially everything needed to write professional copy.
Our local, state and federal statutes outline what is legal and what is illegal.
The National Federation of State High School Associations publishes rule books for prep sports.
Each of these examples brings continuity, along with a sense of consistency and order, to our daily lives.  They are pretty black and white.
When we have a proposal due before 2 p.m., it’s not due around 2 o’clock.  It’s not accepted at 2:01.  Or when we have an article submission that cannot be longer than say, 400 words — anything beyond 400 goes in the garbage can.
But what happens when we leave it up to “the public” to make its own rules and apply common sense to our daily discourse?  It’s often chaos.
I was humored at the grocery store recently when I noticed that the express lane, which used to be for 10 items or less, or in some cases, 15 items or less – has a new option:  “About 15 Items.”

  • Does that mean 17 or 18 items is acceptable?
  • Is 19 “about 15?”
  • Does having four of the same thing only count as one?
  • Can you still use coupons or write a check in this lane?
  • Is it the clerk or the next person in line who has enforcement authority?
  • Is this Grocery 101 or the advanced course?
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at Nov 21, 2017

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