Better Writing: William Safire's Self-Violating Rules
December 20, 2006
I never intended to be a writer. I really don't consider myself a writer. I'm a speaker, and there is a difference. As a speaker, I can muddle through bad grammar, odd word placement, and misuse of terms and phrases by modulating my voice, raising an eyebrow, or using a great hand gesture.
People speak differently from how they write. On this blog, I don't try to "write" I simply type what I would probably say if you and I were sitting down to have a discussion about a topic.
That said, I found this great collection of writing tips from William Safire, the writer, columnist, and word snob. I love his stuff, even if I don't always follow his conventions.
Here is his list of rules (see if you notice something about them....)
William Safire's Rules for Writers:
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- The passive voice should never be used.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
- Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
- If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
- And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
- Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
- Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
- Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
- Always pick on the correct idiom.
- The adverb always follows the verb.
- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.
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