|TEN OR FEWER WRITING RULES
Or: Writing Mistakes That Can Be Avoided (Such As Passive Tense And Verbose Subtitles)
By Scott Nicholson
First, get out while you can.
Second, nobody knows more than anybody else.
So I'm going to give you some rules to live by, some rules to write by. Some rules to break, if you find better ones.
Because nobody knows nothing, especially me.
Our rule of law shall be:
Say what you mean. Tell what happens, then what happens next. Tell it that way until the story ends, then stop.
Anytime you can say the same thing in fewer words, do it. In other words, fewer words is best.
Master punctuation. It's a shame that possessive "its" is so often saddled with the evil apostrophe. Simple rule of thumb: say "it is" or "it has" in your head anytime you write the apostrophed version.
Don't make any comma interruptions, unless necessary, but its (it is) often better to rewrite the sentence. The reader has a rough enough road without your tripping act.
Use the words "lithe" and "serpentine" as often as needed, which means once a lifetime.
By the fourth paragraph, establish character and conflict and engage at least three of the senses.
Never use the word "very," unless you're using it for a very special effect, unlike this example. Sometimes it can be used in conversation to identify a character who is "very boorish."
Don't think of paragraphs as those bulky, four-sentence things you used in term papers. Think of them as "idea blocks," whether the blocks take twelve sentences or three words.
Or a space.
Because every pause, every carriage return, every comma, every word matters. Especially every word.
Word is your currency.
Spend it wisely.
(Copyright 2003. Contact Scott for reprint permission)
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