Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Writer's Rededication to the Rules

The Canadian general election is over and the Liberals got the Green Shaft (sorry, couldn't resist). As the Canadian parliament returns to the job of governing, it will have to rejuvenate itself and abide by a new set of rules.

As a writer, now is the best time to rejuvenate myself as well, and abide by the rules of writing. What better place to begin than by looking at William Safire’s Rules. William Safire is the author of the New York Times Magazine column entitled “On Language”. He is also the author of the book “How Not to Write.” In this lighthearted look at grammar and language, William Safire lays out the rules of grammar and then tells us how to break them. I know I’ll be abiding by these rules every day.

If you don’t get what Mr. Safire is trying to accomplish with these rules, you will by the sixth rule.

1. Do not put statements in the negative form.

2. Remember to never split an infinitive.

3. It is incumbent on one to avoid archaisms.

4. The passive voice should never be used.

5. Proofread care- fully to see if you words out.

6. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

7. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

8. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

9. A writer must not shift your point of view.

10. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

11. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

12. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

13. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

14. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

15. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

16. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

17. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

18. Always pick on the correct idiom.

19. The adverb always follows the verb.

20. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

This week’s Reason to Read: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Usually, I would recommend the latest Asian fiction novel to introduce to as many people as possible the wide range of Asian-style fiction out there. I had to digress this week because one of my favorite fantasy authors has released a new book in hardcover. Billed as a children’s fantasy, the book is about the graveyard adventures of Nobody Owens, Bod to his friends, who was raised and educated by ghosts and guarded by a being neither living nor dead. There are many dangers in the graveyard, but if Bod ever leaves, he will be attacked by Jack, a man who has already killed Bod’s family. This book sounds like it will be a great addition to any library – great reading before Halloween.

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