Our wonderful interwebs are full of blogs and writing websites that showcase an endless procession of writing advice and tips. We’ve discussed the pros and cons here on Indies Unlimited many times, so I don’t want to go over old ground. While planning the content of this post in the quiet small hours, however, it seemed like a good idea at the time to take a slightly skewed, bizarro-world look at writing tips using our trusty list format. Now, it seems… well, slightly stupid. But since I didn’t have a backup, here it is, anyway: a new kind of list. Twenty Five Writing Tips That Probably Suck. Seriously, though, I’m not wasting anyone’s time: loosely hidden within this apparent drivel are some actual decent tips, once they’re extricated and unpacked. You’ll see.
1. Understatement is absolutely essential. Without it, you’re dead in the water. In fact, there’s no hope whatsoever.
2. Avoid semicolons; they’re just not necessary.
3. The complete avoidance of passive clauses is very much advised by me.
4. Weather ewe think your aloud two ore knot … always rely on you’re spellchecker.
5. Eschew ostentatious verbosity, and exhibit an overall predisposition toward a paucity of embellishment.
6. Eighty-six dialect unless yer lugholes are mint, yo.
7. If you inject opinion, I think you should be struck from the author’s list, skewered on a buck elk’s rack during rutting season, and parboiled in liquefied hamster entrails.
8. Over-explaining can lead to a kind of paralysis on the part of the reader, during which their mental processes become overloaded and, in a classic demonstration of diminishing returns, become less able to absorb the full import of your writing, which behooves you to restrict exposition to a minimum, when all is said and done.
9. Entre nous, while foreign languages are awesome, au courant bon mots may appear excessive if they become de rigeur, and may even invite schadenfreude, so caveat emptor, and try to avoid this type of mea culpa or faux pas, comprende?
10. Omit, pare and cull entirely redundant, superfluous and needless words.
11. Pay great attention, to how you use punctuation.
12. As I once thought-spoke to that gelatinous glob of alien protoplasm from Arcturus over a pint of fermented gerbil spleens, write what you know!
13. Do not use commas, to bracket phrases, that are essential to a sentence’s meaning.
14. Never let someone else edit edit your own work; it’s you’re baby, and besides, you don’t know wear they’ve been.
15. Stop!! Think about the overuse of exclamation points!!
16. Make hay while the iron’s hot and don’t mix your metaphors.
17. My impression is that it’s probably not the best idea to be sort of vague about stuff.
18. Make sure your grammar works good.
19. Always finish what you
20. Do not construct gobsmackingly awkward adverbs.
21. Do not misuse apostrophe’s.
22. In dialogue, be sure the reader knows who’s speaking, said the Dalai Lama.
23. Avoid tired clichés like the plague. When you notice one in your writing, hone in on your target and deep six it with extreme prejudice.
24. A while back, right over there someplace, I was talking to some guy about this one: be specific with details.
25. As Orwell once said, only to immediately break his own rule: “never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” George, dude, you were awesome and stuff, but isn’t “figure of speech” itself a, um, figure of speech?
I kid, of course. Orwell knew what he was talking about. Otherwise, how else would he have teamed up with that Rickenbacker dude to invent popcorn? And now, as a treat for wading through my inanities, here’s another guy who actually knew what he was talking about, so much so that he once said “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Exactly. Now he’s the type of guy you need to listen to. Not me, him. Sadism and cockroaches notwithstanding.
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A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on June 1st, 2012. David Antrobus also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.