Tuesday, September 29, 2009

William Safire's Rules for Writers

This is the best way for me to give a nod to William Safire. Safire was a conservative columnist and speechwriter. He was also the writer of the On Language column in the New York Times.

I didn't agree with his political views. For me, he's an example of how someone can be skilled with one thing but not be skilled with something else.

His skills with the English language were incredible. I only hope to one day come close. I make mistakes more than I want to admit. It's really humbling to find something that I didn't proofread carefully and then have to change it.

To that end, RIP William Safire.

Here are his Rules for Writers:

Remember to never split an infinitive.

The passive voice should never be used.

Do not put statements in the negative form.

Verbs have to agree with their subjects.

Proof read carefully to see if you words out.

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

A writer must not shift your point of view.

And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

(Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

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

Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

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

Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

Always pick on the correct idiom.

The adverb always follows the verb.

Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

("read more" - nope...I still need to fix the code.)

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  1. First Bill Buckley now Bill Safire. Two of the few remaining intelligent conservatives within the space of so short at time. The voices of reason within the conservative movement are dwindling by the day.

    My left-leaning ways notwithstanding, although I did not agree with him much of the time, when William Safire spoke, I listened.

    Meanwhile the movement that the two men were so identified with - the movement they both tried to save from the kooks, criminals and fools who have hijacked it - continues to implode.

    Isn't life wonderful?


    Tom Degan

  2. Yeah, they're both great and thoughtful conservatives. The problem is that sort of conservative doesn't get media attention :-/

    BTW, Tom, you can link you blog to your profile.


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