Rules for Writing

According to the Fink:

  1. Write with economy.
  2. Strive for clarity.
  3. Fuh cripesake, stay away from colloquialisms and idioms in formal writing, because people who do that are a dime a dozen. Write your research paper as if you’re composing a textbook for a class; as if it’s fact.
  4. Keep restatement to a minimum. Be careful to not say the same thing twice in as many sentences.
  5. Read your final work out loud to make sure you you haven’t made any careless errors.
  6. Keep in mind that your professor is on the lookout for research papers whose prose is deliberately bloated so as to satisfy the minimum word requirement, or to make it seem as if 60 words are necessary to state what could normally, on any other day, be said in three.  (See Rule #1.)
  7. Don’t use contractions in formal writing; you’ll be penalized for it.
  8. To many people depend on spell checkers that do not detect grammatical errors. If you are unsure about “to” and “too,” ask someone who knows.

Can you tell I’m starting to proofread student work? :-) There are lots of talented and smart students at my school who get a great English and writing education, but who also forget some of the more intricate rules. (The simple ones, too, sometimes.) I also need to follow my own advice, because, as you know, I tend to lean towards the verbose at times, as well as the occasional, comma-infested run-on sentence that, by the time the reader finishes, has lost all continuity, meaning, importance and syntax. And I chop off sentences.

Happy Tunesday

6 thoughts on “Rules for Writing

  1. Tom Hanks

    Haha that was an enjoyable read. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I knew more like…grammar and stuff and could catch all the jokes. I appreciated the “to”…an error I thought I caught you on until the end of the sentence. You’re (<- see dat?? the right one eh?) too smart.

    Can I just say my heroes are Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway and alternate between absurd run-on sentences and blunt statements that need no punctuation?

    Yes he could and there was no one who could stop him as lions do not care what war brings being that his daily life is war and the flames and blood and day and night are all the same and there is no change.

    He submitted his comment.

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Writing with economy means saying what you have to say without using extraneous language (such as the “passive voice”). Just get to the point and trim the fat.

  2. Meg

    May I please print multiple copies of this and distrute them on campus? I don’t claim to be the best writer in the world, but at least I’m aware of grammatical fundamentals and the difference between “you” and “you’re,” “effect” and “affect.” Unfortunately, I’ve become the designated proof-reader in my house (there are nine of us). I think I’m going to refer each of my housemates to this list. Then maybe they will leave me alone. :)


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