Thursday, 21 June 2012

Editorial advice

Leafing through a folder of old paperwork I found this, which was given to me by my managing editor when I started my first job as an editor of non-fiction. It's unattributed, and a quick Google didn't uncover the source, although some of the comments would appear to be those of William Safire (author of a column in the New York Times Magazine called 'On Language', and may be in his book: How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar (Norton, 2005). Editors, and authors, take note! The list is funny, but a reminder of the importance of accuracy and good style.

1. Verbs has to agree with their subject.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

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

6. Always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also, too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments. No comma splices, run-ons are bad too.

11. Contractions aren't helpful and shouldn't be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

14. One should never generalize.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Don't use no double negatives.

17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

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

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Kill all exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is probably not the best way to propose earth-shattering ideas.

26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

27. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.'

28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand time: resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

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

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

32. Who needs rhetorical questions?

33. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement.

34. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.


  1. Will anyone read and criticise my work?

  2. Thanks for posting John. Not sure exactly what you mean - I take it you have work that you want someone to cast their professional eye over and give comments/feedback/advice? If that's the case you can probably find someone online who could do that for you - most publishers don't offer that service unless you have a brilliant idea in their chosen specialist areas. I'd recommend Charlie Wilson, the Book Specialist - link is here: There'll obviously be a fee to pay - it would be rare indeed for you to get professional advice for free. Good luck with it!