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Some Rules for...

How To Write Good

  1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
  2. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat.)
  3. Also, always avoid awkward, affected, and annoying alliteration, which is almost always alienating.
  4. Don't use no double negatives.
  5. Avoid excessive use of ampersands & abbrevs., etc.
  6. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  7. No sentence fragments.
  8. Be more or less specific.
  9. Being a careful writer, dangling modifiers are always avoided.
  10. Foreign words and phrases are not invariably à propos.
  11. All generalizations are bad.
  12. Comparisons can be as bad as clichés.
  13. “Avoid ‘overuse of “quotation” marks.’”
  14. Use brackets to indicate that you [not Shakespeare, for example] are giving people [but not illiterate people] information so that they [the readers] know about whom you are speaking [writing]. Do not use brackets [excessively] when making these references [to other authors].
  15. (Also avoid (as in the last rule) overuse of parentheses [or brackets {or braces <or other symbols for parenthetical thoughts>.}]).
  16. Your adverbs usually should follow your verbs.
  17. Spell out numbers of fewer than 3 syllables.
  18. Analogies in writing can be like feathers on a snake.
  19. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
  21. Eschew obfuscation.
  22. Donít overuse exclamation points!!!
  23. Avoid run-on sentences, they are as hard to read as this example about my eighty-one-year-old grandmother who still rides her Harley motorcycle her toy poodle balanced in a basket between the handlebars.
  24. A careful writer will not shift your point of view.
  25. Rereed your work to cheque for spilling misteaks.
  26. Forsooth, avoid archaisms.
  27. Steer clear of incorrect verb forms that have snuck into the language.
  28. Place pronouns as closely as possible, especially in long sentences, like this one, to their antecedents.
  29. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  30. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
  31. And rarely start a paragraph or a sentence with a conjunction.
  32. Contractions aren't always necessary and shouldn't be used to excess, so donít.
  33. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; avoid pleonasms; such writing is highly superfluous, prolix, and overweighted with verbiage.
  34. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place; omit it when its not needed; and use it correctly with wordsí that show possession.
  35. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a billion times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a gazillion can use it effectively.
  36. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  37. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  38. Who needs rhetorical questions? . . . However, what if there were no rhetorical questions?
  39. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  40. People donít spell "a lot" correctly alot of the time. They also don't spell "all right" alright.
  41. Each person should use their possessive pronouns correctly.
  42. You'll look poorly if you misuse adverbs.
  43. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  44. Also proofread carefully to make sure you donít repeat repeat any words.
  45. Avoid "buzz-words"; such integrated transitional scenarios in a matrixed environment will induce a coma factor in those who are impacted.
  46. Never, ever "beg the question" unless you are talking about petitio principii, or use "impact" as a verb unless you are talking about wisdom teeth.
  47. The dash, a — sometimes — useful punctuation mark, can — often — be overused.
  48. If an old-fashioned grammarian like Miss Thistlebottom tells you that "data" is the plural of "datum" and needs a plural verb ("The data are accurate"), ask what to do about opera, agenda, erotica, insignia, and similar "plurals."
  49. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
  50. It is important to use italics for emphasis sparingly.
  51. In good writing, for good reasons, under normal circumstances, whenever you can, use prepositional phrases in limited numbers and with great caution.
  52. Unless you're a righteous expert, don't try to be too cool with slang to which you're not hip.
  53. Avoid going out on tangents unrelated to your subject — that is, your topic, not subject as in, subject of a ruler, as Francis Bacon was a subject of Queen Elizabeth, who ruled England, the source of English muffins. . . .
  54. Use the ellipsis [. . .] to indicate missing . . . (In the "tangents" example, there are four dots: the ellipsis, plus a period denoting the completion of the sentence.)
  55. In English, unlike German or Latin, the verb early in the sentence, not at the end, should be placed.
  56. When you write sentences, shifting verb tense was always a bad idea.
  57. I would like to assert that the use of many, many terms to describe a fairly simple idea should always be considered prolix, if not excessively wordy.
  58. Donít use too many quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  59. The relative pronoun "that" indicates material essential to a sentence's meaning; "which" does not, and requires appositional commas. "The lawn mower, which is in the garage, is broken" would be all right as "The lawn mower is broken." "The lawn mower that is broken is in the garage" means that you are the proud owner of more than one lawn mower. (Sorry, I couldn't think of an amusing way to state this rule.)
  60. To boldly split infinitives is wrong only when it confuses the reader, such as "I told you to not go there" — or when you're dealing with an officious, self-important Miss Thistlebottom who's stuck in the nineteenth century and imagines that the rules for English are supposed to be just like the rules for Latin. (Ask Miss Thistlebottom which of the following sentences conveys the intended meaning of "Dilbert decided to discreetly mention dating in the work place":
  61. Miss Thistlebottoms will tell you that since "to be" is a "copulative" verb, one must always say "It is I" or "The third baseman? That is he." This rule was invented by men who wanted English to be more like Latin. People have been using phrases like "It is me" since the 16th century. Unless you're addressing the Supreme Court of the English Must Be Made Just Like Latin Society, phrases like "me too" are perfectly correct. (In formal writing, try to make your complements agree: "Who do you believe that she is?" or "Whom do you believe her to be?")
  62. Miss Thistlebottoms also object to ending sentences with prepositions; they say, "Never use a preposition to end a sentence with." Careful writers may enjoy this poem by Morris Bishop: "Once I lost a preposition. / It hid, I thought, beneath my chair. / And angrily, I cried, "Perdition! / Up from out of in under there! // Correctness is my vade mecum, / And dangling phrases I abhor. / But still I wonder, what should he come / Up from out of in under for?" (The New Yorker, 1947) If a Miss Thistlebottom troubles you with this rule, ask her to correct the following sentences: "Rise and shine, it's time up to get." "I almost did not finish; down my computer broke." "Even though I am poor, by I can get."
  63. If a Miss Thistlebottom tells you that there is no need for what editors call the "serial comma," ask her to explain the following sample sentences: "The giant panda eats, shoots and leaves." "My favorite sandwiches are BLT, ham, and peanut butter and jam and cream cheese." "They went to Oregon with Betty, a maid and a cook." (One woman, two, or three?) "I am grateful to my parents, Ayn Rand and God."

17519 : 06Jun20


Mary W. Matthews


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