Rules for Writing Haiku

There are specific rules for writing haiku. Like all rules, it is good to know them, to learn them and practice them. Then when you know what you're doing, it is acceptable to break them.

Haiku poems originated in Japan. Here, very briefly, are the rules that make up this poetic form.

Rules for Writing Haiku #1

Haiku are formed of three lines and seventeen syllables only. No deviation. You can, of course, write whatever you want. But if it isn't a poem made of three lines of five, seven, and then five syllables each, it isn't a haiku.

Here is a haiku example:

Brutal North Pole winds
Cut like knives through unclothed skin.
Bundle tight tonight.

Rules for Writing Haiku #2

The subject of a haiku should be either related to the seasons or something in nature. There is a bit of variation to this rule, and a little more wiggle room than in haiku rule #1. Here is another haiku example:

Purple, red, gold, green,
Blue sky, no clouds, autumn wind
Brisk and cold-air clean.

Rules for Writing Haiku #3

Be specific. This means -- write about one thing. You're limited to three lines and seventeen syllables, so if you try to pack in too much, you will have less effect. This is also true of most poetry.

Here is an example of a summer haiku:

Sweaty summer heat
Sticks me to my auto seat.
A/C breeze is sweet.

Now one of the rules of haiku is that is it NOT supposed to rhyme. That said, if the rhyme works, I go with it. If it doesn't, I don't.

Rules for Writing Haiku #4

Write in the present tense. Even if you're writing from memory, make it feel as if it's happening now. The present tense of haiku gives it life and immediacy. Notice the present tense in the following haiku example:

Fresh flowers: I wheeze.
Green trees, blue skies, and the breeze.
Watch out! Here's a sneeze.

Rule #5

No word repetition allowed here. You're dealing with seventeen whole syllables, so this shouldn't be much of a challenge, even though repetition is fun and generally a good poetic devise. This is one rule that I'm personally itching to break. Notice the lack of repetition, however, in the following haiku example:

Licks my face and arm
With that special doggy charm.
His bark, an alarm.

Rule #6

No rhymes. Now I'm starting to sweat. Personally I love rhyming haiku and I've created many to illustrate this point. That said, a formal, true, authentic haiku does not employ rhyme - either end-rhyme or internal. Here is yet another haiku example.

Nothing in the world
Matters so much as the feel
Of the first spring breeze.

Rule #7

There is the pause in the poem that makes traditional haiku gasp, with pleasure or recognition (or both). Why should haiku be different than another other type of poetry? Here is yet one more example of haiku:

Fluffy, silken fur.
Watch her run, a ghostly blur.
Pet, and feel her purr.

Okay, you caught me. I rhymed! But other than the rhyme, the haiku above captures the essence of haiku. It has three lines of seventeen syllables, 5-7-5. It is about an animal, making it about nature. It is written in the present tense. No words repeat. And there is a pause in the last line. I'll leave it to you to decide if it actually "gasps." If you think you can do better, perfect. Write your own, and if you like, please send it to me. I'd be delighted to hear from you.

For more Haiku Poetry, go to

How to Write a Haiku

Haiku Examples

Funny Haiku Poems

Return to
from Rules for Writing Haiku.

A Little Bit of Nonsense by Denise Rodgers on

Classroom Poem News on Girl in envelope.


* indicates required
Email Format

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from

By signing up for this email you verify that you are at least 16 years old, and that you have read our Privacy Policy (clickable at the bottom of this page). You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.