On Writing Good

Photo - Back to School - copyright Trevin Sherly This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

Photo - Back to School - copyright Trevin Sherly

This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

When I was in junior high school (the early 80s), an English teacher handed out a list of funny writing rules.  The list had been typed and mimeographed.  It didn't attribute any authorship to the work.  I loved these guidelines so much that I later typed them into my computer during college.  The paper I’d been given years prior was badly worn.  

Recently, I rediscovered the list and conducted some research, wondering if there might have been a source to this list.  A different version of it appeared in The New York Times Magazine, November 11, 1979 in the article The Fumblerules of Grammar.  It was written by author and columnist, William Safire.  I can't guarantee it, but this appears to be a possible source for the material.  However, Safire collected suggestions from his readers before creating his list of bad grammar rules .  He did mentioned that English teachers had been doing this for years.

I found a couple other locations around the internet that have added to this list or have variations of it.  However, none of the additions seem as good as the simple list I was originally given.

Therefore, with a nod to Mr. Safire, I’m sharing the basic list as provided by my junior high English teacher.  Hopefully, you enjoy it and learn from it as I have.


 On Writing 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're old hat)

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

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

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

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 necessary; 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 ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however

should be enclosed in commas.

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

23. Kill all exclamation points!!!

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

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.

26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations.

Tell me what you know."

28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

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

31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

32. Who needs rhetorical questions?

33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

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


There you go!  If you liked those, jump over to Mr. Safire's original Fumblerules article.  There are some additional rules as well as different takes on the rules above.  These are good things to keep in mind when writing for work, creating fiction or developing your next blog post.