Mr. Safire, who for many years wrote the “On Language” column for The New York Times, died on Sunday, 09/27/09. I learned a lot from reading his work over the years. These 18 rules may be his greatest legacy. Along with Strunk and White, they comprise most of the rules needed by a careful writer.
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- The passive voice should never be used.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Verbs has 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 avoided 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 of ten 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 mixed 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.
From How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar, Safire, William, 2005.