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Author Topic: Writing Rules  (Read 10233 times)
desertwomble
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« on: August 20, 2009, 01:08:51 AM »

Thought these rules on writing might be, um, useful

From Backwoods Home magazine, which I reccomend

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) an unecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an inifitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. On 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?

DW Wink
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Woody
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2009, 12:36:02 PM »

Womble, point 9. is particularly interesting – did this list come from any particular ombudsman (Swedish)? Because, though this may be the zeitgeist (German), I certainly can’t believe it will ever be the status quo (Latin).

This point certainly lends a sense of déjà vu (French), because in other forums I’ve frequented this type of thing has been espoused; without qualification and I don’t know how we’ve gotten (American) to this stage.

Am I to believe that my bungalow (Indian) should not be referred to as that?

Should English cease to burglarise (American) words and phrases from other languages and thus be rendered stagnant?

Seriously though, is there a context in which this list was drawn up? Because, though there are a lot of good points, some seem nonsensical to me.
And especially for point 9, where is the line drawn and who decides that?   scratch
IMO, point 9 is a sweeping generalisation - which is quite ironic because of the point that follows.  azn And also means point 4 should struck from the list.

How does the list relate to dialogue?

It would be interesting to see the list re-posted, by other CDers, with the points they view as not pertinent, removed.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2009, 01:03:14 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2009, 02:05:01 PM »


Should English cease to burglarise (American) words and phrases from other languages and thus be rendered stagnant?


burglar

noun
a person who commits burglary
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from legal French burgler
or Anglo-Latin burgulator, burglator; related to Old
French burgier, 'pillage'

So what, exactly, would make the word "burglarise" American? Especially since we tend to spell such noun-into-verb endings with a z (burglarize)?

Also, burglary means to break and enter with the intent of stealing. Since the other languages still have the use of their words, we haven't exactly "stolen" them, and we certainly didn't do any breaking and entering.

Nope. The English language doesn't have to stop what it never started. No danger of stagnation here!  cheers
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Woody
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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2009, 02:37:46 PM »

Pharosian, you're setting a huge precedent for yourself.

I was alluding to the verb "to burglarise", as it was used in the sentence, not the noun.
But, suffice it to say, in England the ne'er-do-wells, i.e. burglars, tend to burgle places rather than burglarize them as they do in American parlance.

You don't work in law or politics do you, by any chance?  bangh

Actually I am surprised you didn't pick up on "gotten" which strangely enough is an English word that was dropped from English sometime around the late nineteenth century, if my memory of the fact serves me correctly; it may have been the eighteenth though.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2009, 02:45:16 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2009, 03:50:55 PM »

Strangely, for the most part it is good advice. At least it agrees with the advice I got at bootcamp.
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2009, 05:50:00 PM »

Isn't this list already in our CD archives? No, don't go looking - life's too short. Always good to read and debate them. Mostly sound advice.

Geoff
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SharonBell
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2009, 07:12:34 AM »

One of my favorite tidbits is from Mark Twain: "Avoid speechifying."   Excellent advice to those who tend to data dump, like moi (French).   afro

Here's a blog with a selection of writing tips from the masters: http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/art-of-writing/
« Last Edit: August 21, 2009, 07:14:24 AM by SharonBell » Logged

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www.sharonbuchbinder.com
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2009, 04:12:17 PM »

One of the instructors at borderlands was Doug Winter, and he said he disliked all similies - saw them as author intrusion. At the time I didn't agree, but I've since looked on his advice as being more in keeping with the style I would like to write I in. And I think that has a lot do do with whether you think advice is worth following or not -whether it's releva t to what you're trying to achieve.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2009, 05:12:44 PM »

Seems a harsh rule to always avoid similes, especially  for that reason (author intrusion). It's not author intrusion if the simile is in character - ie that character possessing the POV tends to use similies whereas other characters don't. I tend not to use similes because I avoid cliches (like the plague - I know) and it is hard to dream up original similes.

I found one in Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake I liked.
Smiled as if it always hurt her.

Now I write it, I suppose it's not really a simile.  scratch

Thanks for that link, Sharon.

Geoff
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2009, 11:56:46 PM »

Pharosian, you're setting a huge precedent for yourself.

I was alluding to the verb "to burglarise", as it was used in the sentence, not the noun.
But, suffice it to say, in England the ne'er-do-wells, i.e. burglars, tend to burgle places rather than burglarize them as they do in American parlance.

You don't work in law or politics do you, by any chance?  bangh

Actually I am surprised you didn't pick up on "gotten" which strangely enough is an English word that was dropped from English sometime around the late nineteenth century, if my memory of the fact serves me correctly; it may have been the eighteenth though.

Yeah, I knew two posts in one day was pushing it, but sometimes I can't resist. In this case, I genuinely couldn't figure out how you reckoned the word "burglarise" was in any way of American origin. Your response telling me that in England a ne'er-do-well would "burlgle" rather than "burlarize" shed a great deal of light on the subject. It's not that that specific word is American; it's that Americans have made a general practice of turning nouns into verbs with the suffix "ize." Many new words have been brought into the language this way, such as prioritize and my all-time favorite (read that with deep sarcasm), incentivize. *shudders*

No, I don't work in law or politics. I have too much respect for the language to do that.  bleh  Kidding!
Seriously, I'm not in a profession that is associated with great editorial skills; I just happen to think clear, unambiguous communication should be every writer's goal, and I hate to see words misused.

I did pick up on gotten, and went as far as looking it up in my American dictionary, hoping for some clues as to its origin. All I got was "past participle of the verb to get," which didn't help explain why British and American English would have different versions of the past participle for the same verb. I was too tired to go chasing an answer on the Internet, so I let it drop. Besides, I was looking churlish enough as it was.  Wink
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2009, 05:35:59 PM »

mustn't have my stuff here, ed keeps it.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 07:51:59 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2009, 04:50:09 PM »

This may be stale news. Anyway, people say don't use cliches for instance. But if you are writing a novel reflecting life then people frequently do use them so it is impossible to avoid them.
Profanity: Jack had been a marine for twenty years, the vietcong had shot of one ear, an arab the other. Sitting in the bar an irishman walked in a shot the glass out of his hand. "Bother," said Jack. Yea, like fuck he'd turn and speak without swearing.
One final point. Competitions use judges, the people with the greatest experience, taste, culture. So why do they imagine that the Turner Prize is ART!
For those unfamiliar with this medium and fartists like tracy em... [avoid law suits] one winner was a toilet with a used condom and a cigarette end in it, then there were four bricks!
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Ed
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« Reply #12 on: November 11, 2009, 05:03:52 PM »

Cliches are fine in dialogue, or in first and second person narratives, but the rest of the time they're best avoided, IMO.
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« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2009, 08:33:06 AM »

In the end I envision sitting in front of the computer with a list next to me of do's and don'ts. Yeah, that really sparks the creative juices... bangh

The worst enemy of imagination is conformity.
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Ed
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« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2009, 03:09:39 PM »

I absolutely agree, Frank.  afro
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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