Rules for Writers

Every writer has seen these before, so why not again? I thought it worthwhile publishing these again for myself mainly. As I enter into an editing / revision stage I find myself worrying over grammar and punctuation, whether speech is acceptable with double speech marks, or not. Over what is a dangling participle, or isn’t. And whether I’m supposed to put a dot between an acronym like UK (or U.K.). Time to laugh, then…(sorry, wasn’t supposed to overuse the elipse either, was I?)

On re-reading these, I stand guilty of constantly breaking many of them.

1.  Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.

2.  Don’t use no double negatives.

3.  Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn’t.

4.  Reserve the apostrophe for it’s proper use and omit it when its not needed.

5.  Do not put statements in the negative form.

6.  Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

7.  Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

8.  No sentence fragments.

9.  Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

10.              Avoid commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

11.              If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

12.              A writer must not shift your point of view.

13.              Eschew dialect, irregardless.

14.              not a rule anymore

15.              Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!

16.              Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

17.              Hyphenate between sy-llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.

18.              Write all adverbial forms correct.

19.              Don’t use contractions in formal writing as they aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.

20.              Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

21.              It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.

22.              If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

23.              Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.

24.              Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.

25.              Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

26.              Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

27.              Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

28.              If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.

29.              Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.

30.              Don’t string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

31.              Always pick on the correct idiom.

32.              “Avoid overuse of ‘quotation “marks.”‘”

33.              The adverb always follows the verb.

34.              Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; seek viable alternatives as they are old hat anyway.

35.              It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

36.              Be More or Less Specific

37.              Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

38.              Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

39.              Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

40.              One-word sentences? Eliminate.

41.              The passive voice is to be ignored.

42.              Puns are for children, not groan readers.

43.              Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

44.              Understatement is absolutely the best way to put forward earth-shaking ideas.

45.              Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary, it’s highly superflous.

46.              One should NEVER generalize.

47.              Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

48.              Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

49.              Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

50.              Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

51.              Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

52.              DO NOT use all caps or underlines to emphasize.

53.              Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations, tell me what you know.”

54.              Who needs rhetorical questions?

55.              Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

56.              Be careful to use the rite homonym.

57.              Break the rules (added for sanity).

Note: the above rules are suggested as grammatical fun for writers, and many have been republished all over the web, although I haven’t seen all 56 together like this before. And I added the last.

At least eighteen of these have been contributed to William Safire, who wrote a Sunday column, “On Language” for the New York Times, and in November of 1979 published ‘The Fumblerules of Grammar’ in this column. This full column and its history has been discussed on Donna Richoux’s 2002 article on


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