The Great Rules of Writing

As a writer, I think it’s important to work on your craft and strive to get better at it. I’ve learned a lot through the act of writing itself but sometimes it’s helpful to come across a list of rules like this:

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.
~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”

If you don’t stumble upon these ‘rules’ somewhere, it’s likely you’ll discover them on your own. So far, I’ve found that they apply pretty consistently. The trick, of course, is to master the rules and then learn when to break them.


4 comments on “The Great Rules of Writing

  1. Interesting stuff, but a little high brow for me, lol. Still trying to figure how selling off part of a museum collection figures in with euphemisms. 😛

  2. I have to admit, I didn’t know the first one. Now I’m curious and will have to look for it when rereading my latest WIP. Might change it or leave, depends on how it reads and if I think I need to break it for the story’s sake.

    • That’s probably the best approach, (writing in service of the story). I think Orwell wrote something that said you shouldn’t use ‘not un-“, (double negative), but I’ve seen a lot of good authors do that.

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