It’s good when someone follows the rules, but some people can take those rules too seriously. It might help you to see some synonyms of what words you can use to describe a rule-follower, and this article is the perfect place for you to do that!
Which Words Can Describe Someone Who Follows The Rules?
Our favorite synonyms for rule-follower are:
- By the book
The preferred version is “stickler” because it’s commonly used in English. It refers to someone who must follow the rules to an exact reference, with absolutely no possible way of wavering from them. They take rules seriously and do their best to enforce them too.
We’ll start with the most suitable word for this situation.
A stickler is somebody who takes the rules of conduct seriously. They’ll often force the rules upon other people (even when it’s not their right to do so). They are only happy when all of the rules are being followed, and they don’t like being the only person to follow them.
The definition of “stickler,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “a person who thinks that a particular type of behavior is very important, and always follows it or tries to make other people follow it.”
Sticklers can be difficult to work with because they’ll constantly be pressuring you to stick to the rules. Even if you only slightly break a handful of them, you can trust a stickler to remind you of your misconduct.
A stickler could appear as follows:
- Jackie is a real stickler for the rules, which is why so many people steer clear of her.
- You don’t have to be such a stickler for these rules. You could overlook them, then more people would trust you!
- She’s nothing but a stickler, and people can’t stand working with her because of it.
A conformist is somebody who will stick to the rules presented to them and won’t know how to break them. They behave in a way that someone superior to them tells them to behave, so conformists have a really hard time breaking any rules.
The definition of “conformist,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “someone who behaves or thinks like everyone else, rather than being different.”
While it’s not always a bad thing if you can’t break the rules, conformists often have such a hard time with them that they can’t even bend them slightly. Even if the original rules were outdated or ridiculous, conformists would still make sure not to break them.
We could use “conformist” in the following ways:
- Stop calling me a conformist. I can’t help it that I stick to the rules. I’m just the best of us.
- You’re nothing more than a lowly conformist, and you’ll do anything to get into the boss’s good books.
- While I hate being a conformist, it seems like the new rules laid out in the business plan are something we all have to deal with.
Someone who is pedantic will pay a lot of attention to formal rules and details. They’ll also remind (and correct) people about these rules or details should anyone place a foot out of line.
The definition of “pedantic,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “giving too much attention to formal rules or small details.”
“Pedantic” is a word we can apply to many areas in life. However, when talking about following rules, it works well because we’re talking about how someone is so strict with their rules, they’ll often correct others about them too.
We could use “pedantic” in the following ways:
- Without meaning to sound pedantic, I believe you’ve all forgotten quite an important rule when it comes to doing these silly things.
- You’re trying to be pedantic with the rules, which is making it harder for everyone here to trust you with their ideas.
- I’m pedantic because I want everyone to follow the rules that our manager has given to us!
A jobsworth is what someone might be called in a professional environment in UK English. They use it to talk about someone who gets the “worth” out of their “job” by sticking to the rules and enforcing them on others (even when those rules are ridiculous).
The definition of “jobsworth,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “someone who always obeys all the rules of their job even when they cause problems for other people or when the rules are silly.”
While it’s mostly a UK English term, it still sees some usage in US English. It’s a word that works well when describing somebody who is difficult to work with because of their attention to the rules.
“Jobsworth” is a great term that’s found a lot of popularity in the workplace. Let’s see how it works in practice:
- Steven is such a jobsworth. Honestly, I’ve never met somebody who takes all the rules here so seriously.
- You’re being a real jobsworth right now. Everyone knows how stupid it is to enforce a rule like that, so don’t even bother trying.
- Please, don’t be a jobsworth in your new job! You were so unbearable to work with according to your last colleagues!
By The Book
If someone is “by the book,” it means they are literally reading and following the rules as they are written. That means there is no compromise or reason to steer away from the expected rules, and they would expect everyone else to follow them in the same ways.
The definition of “by the book,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “exactly as the rules tell you.”
Even if there isn’t a physical “book,” this idiom means the same thing. We’re simply saying that somebody has read the rules straight out of wherever they came from, and they refuse to do anything but follow them.
Someone who is “by the book” might be seen in the following examples:
- You’re doing everything by the book, which I appreciate, but it makes it harder for everyone here to get along with you.
- She doesn’t have to be so by the book all the time. There are more pressing things to concern herself with.
- I don’t want to do it by the book because people always judge me for sticking to the rules too closely.
An uncompromising person has a hard time with rules. They’ll only ever stick to the rules as they’re presented and will give no leeway to anyone who decides to break them. Even if breaking the rules makes the job slightly easier, uncompromising people will still refuse to do it.
The definition of “uncompromising,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “if people or their beliefs are uncompromising, they are fixed and do not change, especially when faced with opposition.”
It’s mostly a boss or manager who would be uncompromising. They’ll set rules that are almost impossible to follow and then make sure that all of their employees are following them regardless. It’s rare for employees themselves to be uncompromising in a workplace.
“Uncompromising” might work as follows:
- Why do you always have to be so uncompromising? I’m just trying to break the rules a little bit to aid everyone.
- You’re an uncompromising idiot if you think everyone is going to stick to your stupid rules.
- I’m not trying to be uncompromising, but I’m afraid I will not budge when it comes to the new rules that we’ve rolled out.
Fastidious people are similar to pedantic people. They’ll pay close attention to the smallest of details (the ones often overlooked by others). If anyone makes a mistake with those details, fastidious people will be the first to call them out for it.
The definition of “fastidious,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “giving too much attention to small details and wanting everything to be correct and perfect.”
A fastidious person could appear in the following ways:
- Please stop being so fastidious about the rules. There are plenty of better things to worry about than those!
- We are not trying to be fastidious, but if the employees here don’t start sticking to the rules, we’re going to have to take action.
- I don’t mean to sound fastidious, but you really shouldn’t be doing that without the appropriate authorization.
A goody-goody is somebody who strictly follows the rules to try and impress their superiors. They will follow the rules to a T while also making sure they assert their authority over their colleagues. All of this is done in the hope of impressing the boss.
The definition of “goody-goody,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “someone who behaves in a way intended to please people in authority.”
You might see “goody-goody” appear as follows:
- John is too much of a goody-goody, which is why he never gets in trouble.
- The goody-goody over there keeps reminding me that what I’m doing doesn’t fit in with his silly rules.
- You’re such a goody-goody! It’s no wonder people find it so difficult to be around you when you always lecture them!
You may also like: 10 Words for Someone Who Thinks Rules Don’t Apply to Them
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.