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21 rules for good writing*

It’s Christmas. Or nearly. What with all that gift shopping, turkey stuffing and holly wreath making, I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of time for reading e-zines.

So this month, I thought I’d keep it short with a few thoughts on how to write better. (More betterer?). OK. Here goes…

  1. To intentionally split an infinitive is a bad idea.
  2. A preposition is never the right word to end a sentence with.
  3. And you should never start a sentence with a conjunction.
  4. Make sure your verbs agrees with your subjects.
  5. If you start in one tense you should finished in it too.
  6. The active voice should be used wherever possible.
  7. If you’re, like, writing for a younger audience, yeah, you so don’t want to use teen slang.
  8. Short sentences, with their simple syntax, are always, or, at any rate, mostly, preferable to their longer cousins, where meaning can be submerged in a sea of dependent clauses (and parenthetical expressions).
  9. Latin should be persona non grata in copywriting.
  10. Avoid exclamation marks!!!
  11. Treat abstract nouns with a high degree of suspicion.
  12. S entences. Verbs. Need each other? Not always.
  13. Utilising jargon facilitates sub-optimal responsiveness.
  14. Always cheek your smelling.
  15. Some contractions ain’t right for formal writing.
  16. If you mix your metaphors you could be riding a runaway train down a slippery slope.
  17. Don’t use negative language.
  18. It’s OK to turn nouns into verbs if you can shoulder the burden.
  19. Never use a long word when a short one will accomplish the same objective.
  20. Always use the right number of dots for ellipsis………………
  21. Give your sentence more impact by putting the strongest word at the end of it.

*With acknowledgements to William Safire, American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter, 1929-2009

Categories: Maslen on Marketing and Style.

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