How To Write Good

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I was going through old files recently and came across an article I once photocopied out of a magazine. It’s titled “How To Write Good.” The magazine published the list “author unknown,” but a quick Google revealed the original author to be Frank L. Visco. It was originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writer’s Digest.

It’s one of those lists that tend to get passed around by email, so forgive me if you’ve seen it before. It’s more amusing than it is helpful, actually. Grains of salt recommended.

How To Write Good

  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 ad nauseam.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbrev., etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t acceptable.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson 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 to do that.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is insipid.
  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?
  24. Abjure polysyllabic obfuscations.
  25. Finally, chech for pselling errors and typeos.

I found several different versions of this list. I guess folks have felt free to edit as they like.

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Shaunda Jones
    Shaunda Jones04-20-2012

    Hi Mr. Wasko. The title drew me to this blog. Very funny post.
    Seems like something that would have been on a poster in your class.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-25-2012

      Hey Shaunda,

      Great to hear from you. That would make a great poster, huh?

  2. CFloyd
    CFloyd04-19-2012

    At first I thought I needed to remind you it’s “well” not “good”, but as you are not the author of this entry’s focus, and upon reading it I find the whole thing making points by purposefully perverting writing’s rules, I see no need to point out to you that the title missused “good”. 🙂

    P.S. Andrew Pudewa uses a version of this for a class.

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