So many friends are pushing through their final papers and exams during this time in May.
Short of special deliveries of double-caff coffee, I couldn’t think of any way to ease their burden.
The inimitable Frank L. Visco has written a profoundly helpful set of guidelines on how to use the English language well in written form. Originally published in the 1986 edition of Writer’s Digest, I am certain it will be an unspeakably useful gift to my paper-writing, hair-twirling, glassy-eyed, hallucinating, chronophobic friends.
Here it is, and best of luck to all of you who are burning the midnight oil this week and next!
How to Write Good
by Frank L. Visco
My several years in the word game have learnt me the following rules:
- Avoid Alliteration. Always.
- Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
- Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
- Employ the vernacular.
- Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
- Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
- It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
- Contractions aren’t necessary.
- Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
- One should never generalize.
- Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
- Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
- Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
- Profanity sucks.
- Be more or less specific.
- Understatement is always best.
- Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
- One word sentences? Eliminate.
- Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
- The passive voice is to be avoided.
- Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
- Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
- Who needs rhetorical questions?