Friday, April 29, 2011


I love this list -- it covers many basics!

~ 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 cliches like the plague.

William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"


  1. I don’t think you can go wrong with these rules. And I try to follow them myself. When I try to follow them I find that I rarely go wrong, so it really is a good idea to follow them. I find it absolutely horrific that anyone would use a euphemism—haven’t the vaguest idea what it even is. Might ring a bell, though, if I ran it up the pole to see if it would wave.

  2. SO funny, Karleen. Thanks for your post. I laughed out loud. I share your mild aversion to euphemisms -- as you so delicately expressed it. Makes me wonder what a euphemism would look like...

  3. Aloha, e Rachna, Those rules are pretty humorous...dry and wry. But I don't agree with them much....except if one is writing an essay. That's when you have to be precise: no nonqualified superlatives, no negatives on negatives, no clich├ęs, etc. But for telling stories, each one of these rules, when broken, can come in handy. They can help give voice to a character. Many of Safire's rules are all prescriptive. They are what he would like English to be, not what it is with its negatives and fronted conjunctions and verbs and prepositions at the end. His rules seem to say that one should leave all of the big words in the dictionary. Oh my! Reduced to using everyday words, we'll have no bangles to dress up our prose with (oops: with which to dress up our prose). Of those rules, just one is at the top of my list: avoid repetition. Attentive readers can always spot it. The inattentive: do we need to worry about them? Aloha from James Rumford, who hasn't written anything longer than 32 pages and who has to draw pictures to make his words clear!