Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

William Safire’s Top 18 Rules For Writers

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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.

  1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  2. The passive voice should never be used.
  3. Do not put statements in the negative form.
  4. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  5. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  6. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  7. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  8. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.  (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
  9. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  10. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences of ten or more words, to their antecedents.
  11. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  12. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  13. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
  14. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  15. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  16. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  17. The adverb always follows the verb.
  18. 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.

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Author: Bill

Stumbling down the Middle Path, one day at a time.

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