I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My A-Z of Writing Tips: Nuances of Grammar

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"

How about you: Do you think any other “rules” should be added to this list? Which is your favorite?

Crusader Challenge Heads-up

I'll be holding my final Crusader Challenge on Friday, April 22nd. The theme of the Challenge will be related to the letter S (it has to be "Show not Tell" of course!), so A-Z Challenge entrants can combine both posts if they wish to enter my Crusader Challenge as well. Those who aren't Crusaders are very welcome to take part. This month's Challenge is just for fun, so there won't be any judging or prizes.

I've posted the Challenge below, so you have a week to come up with your entry. All entries should be posted on Friday, April 22nd. As soon as you've posted, pop back to Rach Writes... and leave the direct link to your entry in the Linky Link tool, which I'll include in my April 22nd post.

Show Not Tell Crusader Challenge: In 300 words or less, write a passage (it can be an excerpt from your WIP, flash fiction, a poem, or any other writing) that shows (rather than tells) the following:
  • you're scared and hungry
  • it's dusk
  • you think someone is following you
  • and just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: shimmer, saccadic, substance, and salt.
Can't wait to see what you come up with on April 22nd!


J.L. Campbell said...

Sound tips. As my writing coach used to say, never use a ten dollar word when a five dollar one with do.

I'll definitely be doing something for the challenge.

Donna Weaver said...

Other rules for grammar? I would say so. I spent nearly two hours last summer teaching a class to peers on grammar (and open meetings law), and I talked fast.


Sarah Allen said...

Fantastic list :) And the humor is not only wonderful, but helps make the rules easier..*ahem*, I mean, facilitates their memorability.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Gail M Baugniet said...

I am not a rebel without a cause, but I do believe it is important to learn all the rules before breaking them.

The rule that irritates me most when broken is: Do not put statements in the negative form. While I'm trying to figure out what the sentence means, I lose interest in what I'm reading.

Eve said...

haha! Excellent and funny rules...let's see...When I re-read my work I find that by re-reading it I can avoid repetition if only I will re-read it and edit to avoid repetition...lol! love it! I want to do this new challenge too..sounds fun!

mooderino said...

Nice post. William Safire is such a cool name, he must be right.
Moody Writing

Cally Jackson said...

Bahaha! Love it. :-)

Adina West said...

*grins* Love these!

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Great Crusade and great writing prompts, Rachael! I wonder what writing rules Chaucer followed? Anyone?

Crystal said...

I really like the "avoid cliches like the plague" rule! So true, but so difficult to do sometimes. I think another grammar rule should be "study, comma usage, carefully!" (yes, I used commas improperly there as a joke - just keeping the funny intact!)

I'm a writer cleverly disguised as a medical dictatypist, and you would not BELIEVE how many doctors out there suffer from... *scary music* comma addiction!

San said...

Yikes. I do believe I break many of these rules on a daily basis. Can THAT be my distinctive voice?

Purty pah-lease :)

Thanks for more great tips, Rach. Have a FANTABULISTIC day :)

Bish Denham said...

LOL! I've seen these before. I like 'em all.

Dafeenah said...

Great tips! I tend to write the way I talk which is not always a good thing. Grammar was always something I hated in school and it seems that hasn't changed much as I have got older.


Talei said...

Good points! I'd say, keep it concise where possible. ;-)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks for the tips, Rach.... Always something to learn on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Love these. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes I need a reminder.

Alleged Author said...

Oo-er. Did you know most popular MG/YA novels contain many sentences beginning with a conjunction (especially when in dialogue)? Totes goes against what I was taught, but kids write and speak this way all the time.

If you write in 3rd person, I definitely agree with this rule. First person...the lines are blurred. I may be wrong though!

But I read this awesome novel lately that sometimes started sentences with conjunctions, and I didn't mind. Now if only my internet would download the rest of it. Hm.

Wub2Write said...

By reading our work aloud at critique today, we caught several repetitive words in our own writing.

And while working at the newspaper, my editor suggested we read our articles aloud to another reporter.

Ellie said...

Great rules, which I'll pretend to know all about ;)

Ellie Garratt

~Rasz~ said...

Excellent post and great rules. When I reread my writing I find the same word used over and over way too much.

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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