"The best writing is rewriting." - E.B. White
Seven Simple Rules for Good Writing
“A few strong instincts, and a
few plain rules” are all you need to write well, according to
Well, here’s a list of plain writing
rules from respectable sources including: E.B. White, George Orwell,
1. Be specific.
specific: five pickles
General: some pickles
2. Use active voice.
Active: The car hit the tree.
Mother braided Sissy's hair.
Passive: The tree was hit by the car.
Sissy's hair was braided by Mother.
Note the "to be" (was, is, had
been) verb form of passive sentences. Use of active voice creates
3. Use parallel structure.
Example: Parallel structure - Government of the people, by the people
and for the people.
As you can see, parallel
structure makes memorable, easy to read copy.
4. Vary sentence
structure and length when not using parallel structure. Writing a
short sentence after a couple of long ones gives the reader a
punch. It keeps him awake. Sentences starting with
subject-verb every time can get boring.
An example of varying sentence structure and length: She ran to the
house and opened the door. "Mom! Mom!" she screamed. No one
Same sentence structures and length: She ran to the house. She
opened the door. She screamed for her mom. Her mom was not
5. Prefer strong
nouns and strong verbs over adjectives and adverbs.
An example of strong verb: She stammered.
Weak adverb: She spoke hesitantly.
An example of a strong noun: Porshe
Weak adjectives: a shiny, expensive sports car
6. Avoid cliches.
Every Tom, Dick, and Harry,
Sometimes change the cliche to
make it funny.
Example: Every Trey, Dylan, and Harold Fredrick.
Stay in one viewpoint.
Pretend you are a camera inside your character's head, You can see,
hear, taste, smell, think, and feel for that character, but not for any
others. It's like real life.
An example in one viewpoint: Marilyn petted her dog. His hair
felt sticky on her fingers. “You need a bath, old fellow," she
said. "You smell like a skunk."
An example of change of the viewpoint: Oh no! thought the dog.
Now here's a rule about rules: If
you know the rules, you can bend them. Rules are only ways to
analyze and think about your writing. Try the rules and see if
they work--you'll find most of the time they do! But remember: don't
let the rules override your strong writing instincts!