“Fumblerules” for writing in English

I’m sure most of you know this text already, in one of its various forms, but one of the rules came up recently in a conversation and I thought I’d just republish the list here, for future reference and because it’s fun.

ON HOW TO WRITE GOOD

1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They are old hat).
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
8. Be more or less specific.
9. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than unnecessary; it’s highly superfluous.
14. One should never generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don’t use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Profanity is for assholes.
26. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shattering ideas.
27. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
28. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
29. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
30. Puns are for children, not for groan readers.
31. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
32. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
33. Who needs rhetorical questions?
34. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
35. Proofread every space and letter carefully to see if you any words out.

I went on to look for the original source, and according to the alt-usage-english.org site one of the first lists was compiled by none less than William Safire. (Later lists are a bit more effective in my view, but still. And he had this genial one: “Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.”)

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2 comments on ““Fumblerules” for writing in English

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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