Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Humorous Art of Revision,
or How to Write Good

This apocryphal list has been credited to Frank L. Visco, allegedly a vice-president and senior copywriter at USAdvertising

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

4. Employ the vernacular.

5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

8. Contractions aren't necessary.

9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

10. One should never generalize.

11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

14. Profanity sucks.

15. Be more or less specific.

16. Understatement is always best.

17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

20. The passive voice is to be avoided.

21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

24. Be careful to use apostrophe's correctly.

25. Do not use them pronouns as modifiers.

26. And never start a sentence with a conjunction.


Diane said...

Lists like that scare me! I had an editor who sternly and repeatedly told me I was violating Rule No. 11of the Elements of Style. And that was just the beginning...

Hope you are a nice editor and not a meanie like that one editor I had.

Mark David Gerson said...

If you read
The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write
, you'll see that all my lists of rules begin this way:

Rule #1: There are no rules

And there aren't, Strunk & White notwithstanding.

Mark David

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great fun here! Love this list! ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great fun here! Love this list! ;)