Existing methods for dealing with knowledge updates differ greatly depending on the underlying knowledge representation formalism. When Classical Logic is used, updates are typically performed by manipulating the knowledge base on the model-theoretic level. On the opposite side of the spectrum stand the semantics for updating Answer-Set Programs that need to rely on rule syntax. Yet, a unifying perspective that could embrace both these branches of research is of great importance as it enables a deeper understanding of all involved methods and principles and creates room for their cross-fertilisation, ripening and further development. Furthermore, from a more pragmatic viewpoint, such a unification is a necessary step in addressing updates of hybrid knowledge bases consisting of both a classical and a rule component. This paper bridges the seemingly irreconcilable approaches to updates. It introduces a novel monotonic characterisation of rules, dubbed RE-models, and shows it to be a more suitable semantic foundation for rule updates than SE-models. Then it proposes a generic scheme for specifying semantic rule update operators, based on the idea of viewing a program as the set of sets of RE-models of its rules; updates are performed by introducing additional interpretations – exceptions – to the sets of RE-models of rules in the original program. The introduced scheme is then used to define particular rule update operators that are closely related to both classical update principles and traditional approaches to rules updates, enjoying a range of plausible syntactic as well as semantic properties. In addition, these operators serve as a basis for a solution to the long-standing problem of state condensing for two of the foundational rule update semantics, showing how they can be equivalently defined as binary operators on some class of logic programs. Finally, the essence of these ideas is extracted to define an abstract framework for exception-based update operators, viewing a knowledge base as the set of sets of models of its elements. It is shown that the framework can capture a wide range of both modeland formula-based classical update operators, and thus serves as the first firm formal ground connecting classical and rule updates.