I'm writing something about sets "life rules" like The Rules - The Way of The Cycling Disciple. I want to relate a proposed "set of rules" to existing "rules/sets of rules" like Murphy's Law or the Cycling Rules.

For example,

Over the years, I've developed a few __________ that I think are useful to keep in mind in dealing with technology.

I think these are not quite same as aphorisms, because the types of rules I'm thinking of are statements of what should be, whereas my understanding of aphorism is like this Merriam-Webster definition:

aphorism, noun :

2 : a terse and often ingenious formulation of a truth or sentiment usually in a single sentence : ADAGE, MAXIM

An aphorism is more a statement of an observed truth, but although the type of rules I'm thinking of are based on observations of real life, they're statements of opinion of how things should be.

So is there a word or phrase for this type of rules? (Now that I've typed up this question, I think MAXIM might work, but I'm not sure.)

  • 2
    If your examples use "rules", and there are other examples like the book 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, why don't you like "rules"? Are you looking for something fancier, old-fashioned, colloquial, or what?
    – Stuart F
    May 15 at 16:33
  • Checking on the definition/s of 'maxim' is sensible. May 15 at 18:10
  • 2
    OMG, just say rules; you’re in over your head. Those other words are for god, government, and cult leaders. Search rule vs precept vs maxim vs adage vs aphorism. May 16 at 2:21
  • @TinfoilHat FWIW I picked up a book from the library with a list of life rules for architecture. The title? 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. So yeah, OP could use thing and be fine. May 16 at 23:10

5 Answers 5


The word "precept" is more suited to your purpose.

(OALD) precept noun /ˈpriːsept/ [countable, uncountable] (formal)

​a rule about how to behave or what to think

(Adage and Precept - Similar meaning words) "Adage" is a synonym for "precept" in language topic. You can use "Adage" instead a noun "Precept", if it concerns topics such as maxim, proverb.


Your example could be a dictum (plural dicta). See Merriam Webster def. 1b:

b: an observation intended or regarded as authoritative

must follow the dictum "First, do no harm"

The intention to be authoritative ("First, do no harm") would fit in well with the list you link, which has a list of dicta that often start with a verb ("obey the rules," "lead by example"). A couple of the recent examples from the web illustrate that usage of guiding what should be:

Butler aced the Wooden dictum: be quick, but don’t hurry. — Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Apr. 2023

Her dictum: Live where your feet are. — Karen Heller, Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2023


Yes, I think that "maxim" would work fine in your context. You haven't given any examples of your actual rules (doing so would be very helpful), but based on the cycling rules in the link that you provided, M-W's first definition seems appropriate:

1: a general truth, fundamental principle, or rule of conduct
| Mother's favorite maxim was "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

  • I haven't come up with a short catchy title, but I'm assembling a few "rules for coping with modern, connected life" that I've learned over the years. Some of my rules are observations, some are "don't ever do this..." May 15 at 16:33
  • @Ward-ReinstateMonica If you need a title right now (for example, to pitch to a publisher), then I understand why you're asking this question, but if not, then perhaps it would be best to write the rules first and then come up with a word to describe them. (As you write them, you might find that they are different from what you originally expected.) May 15 at 16:40

The set of rules may be rules of good conduct (or good behaviour or good practice). "rules" may be replaced by "code". <Wikipedia>

Rules of conduct refer to Ethics. When defining such practices in society, you are delivering patterns or instructions for compliance to what is considered desirable.


Perhaps "rules of thumb". From M-W

a general principle regarded as roughly correct but not intended to be scientifically accurate

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