Monday, October 18, 2010

Writing Pitfalls to Avoid

Tip of the hat to Joanna Sandsmark for sending this list. Words we can all live by, eh?

Writing Pitfalls to Avoid

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical statements
however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth
shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations.
Tell me what you know."
28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist
hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

And finally...

34. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.


Anna Geletka said...


I have to confess I do sometimes break these rules (starting sentences with 'and', sentence fragments - and clearly unnecessary parentheses as well, hah!).

I try to edit most out, but I guess I feel that sometimes a rule can be broken. I'd love your viewpoint as an editor on this. Is it sometimes ok to use a sentence fragment (or whatever), or is it always wrong?

Jenny Maloney said...

I wish I was smart enough to come up with that list. That was great. =)

Edittorrent said...

Ms Luey, a fragment used to good effect is fine. In fact, any time you break a rule to good effect, it's fine. The trick is in knowing when the effect is good.


LA said...

Oh brilliant! :)

/forwards to friends/

Yvonne Osborne said...

I was going to leave a comment about breaking rules to fine effect but I see you already addressed that concern. Another exception would be number 7 in regards to dialogue. No? People use contractions all the time in conversation and to avoid all would make for stilted dialogue. Number 30 makes me smile. I do that all the time and if the barn isn't big enough I add the pond.

Thanks for a great post!

Alicia said...

That last one is so me. :)

Funny list, T!


Leona said...

CAN I PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, use that list for NaNoWriMo twitter? I'll hashtage it and everything.

Last year I did spoof on "You know you're a writer if..." It was loads of fun for those of us crazy enough to get on the wagon train.

I use a few a day, and encourage people to drop in and add their own. Like, I didn't see one on elipses...


And seriously, don't use contractions? I did that on accident and everything sounded stilted so I went through and added them. Help! :D

middle grade ninja said...

I wish I didn't need this list... but I do.

Enchanted Oak said...

From one editor to another: This list rocks. Irregardless of what anyone else might say: Rules is rules. Don't brake 'em. And never forget to proofread, and introduce yourself to the comma splice, it is worse than feathers on a snake (if you don't mind me saying so). Oops, that's another rule we all need to live by, each and every one of us: In American English, the punctuation goes inside the "/" marks, except when it doesn't. And what do I mean by "except when it doesn't"? Well, there is your answer.
I had a blast with your post, obviously. Someone once told me to be looking for every gerund in my writing and be converting it into a brave, strong verb, which is what I am doing these days to good effect, don't you think?
Cheers for you two!