I'm afraid I don't understand the conclusion that the "rules" (guidelines would be a better word, I think) are arbitrary and based on some random writer's superiority complex
Not all rules (or guidelines). Some, however, are.
I read a story from a fellow writer every day about how some teacher in some college or university went Rambo-style on the students, forcing them to take out all adverbs, or all the "that", or other ridiculous expectations that seem to lobotomize a writer a lot more than improving the overall writing.
That's basically the basis of this whole thread. Teachers or scholars like those described above. I despise all people who heir in all black or all white, and who are unable to see the gray tones in anything. Be it writing, politics or religion, people like that are in my opinion unable to think for themselves. They're the same people who will believe anything CNN reports, without questioning the facts. There's another word for people like that, but it wouldn't be politically correct.
It sounds like you don't trust authority. One can't question the validity of something one does not know about--one can't write off a "rule" because they don't trust it. One must conduct his own research, get out there and weigh both opinions honestly, and decide whether or not to ascribe to either or to make their own. However, I don't think politics and religion has anything to do with the compositional part of writing and I think you are starting to make this personal, FK7.
Here's my beef. If one actually sits back and honestly considers what these professors are saying, one is likely to find that there is merit in their argument. I've never heard of someone taking all of them out--that's impossible. They are needed, but sparingly. Again, the "ly" at the end of an adverb, placed in the middle of a sentence, turns out awkward; or, like I said before, the adverbs or adjectives used are probably redundant.
First time I heard the "it's a style choice" thing I didn't believe it. I still don't. Take, for example, this sentence:
"If you actually sit back and honestly listen to these professors, you will find that their arguments have merit."
As opposed to eliminating and rearranging some needless words:
"If you honestly sit back and listen to these professors, you will find their arguments have merit."
GASP---OMG'SH!!! BETRAYER!!! HE CHANGED HIS STYLE!!! HERETIC!!! IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!! RRRRGGG!!! RUN FOR COVER!--CAN'T BREATHE--COUGH COUGH COUGH--NOOOOO.....
This is why I don't believe the "style" thing when cutting out adverbs and passiveness and stuff. Your trademark, or "style," is the way you put words together and which words you use. Other things contribute: paragraph use, punctuation, presence of humor, use of similes and metaphors, sentence structure, length...etc. etc.
How *well* you put these things together--how well you use them--is a matter of quality (does an "aimless" after the word "wandering" REALLY make the sentence your own? Is it REALLY just not "you" if you rearrange a sentence to be more active?).