How To Write Good

Song of the Day: Hey Man, Nice Shot by Filter

How to Write Good

By Frank L. Visco

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  13. Don’t be redundant, don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  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?


Okay, show of hands. Who read through this list and realized they were guilty of one, two, or all of these infractions? Come on, I know I’m not the only one. Although this is a tongue in cheek (cliché!) list, there is a lesson here. (Parenthetical remark! One-word sentence! Egads, does it ever end? Oops, profanity & a rhetorical question.) Rules are meant to be broken. Well, maybe not always. Spending 24 hours in the city jail may have you rethinking that philosophy. However, when used appropriately a writer can break, bend, stretch, and reshape these rules and the many other “unwritten” rules and still write a powerful, effective, emotional piece of fiction. The key is to know the rules and understand why they are not to be tampered with. (Preposition.) Once you master them, then you will know how to effectually shatter them for your own gains.

I want to thank a special friend, William Simon for sending this to me. Gracias!

So, which of these crimes are you guilty of committing? Let me hear from you.

11 Responses to How To Write Good

  1. I must have read this in the same place Will did. I enjoyed it as much the second time around!!
    Most creative folks- whether it’s decorating, sculpting, painting, writing etc.- will tell you to study and learn the rules of your field. Most creative folks who are at the top of their game will also tell you that you NEED to break the rules to make it really interesting. The difference between a novice and someone with authority on the subject is that the latter will break the rules with style, panache and with a skill that only adds to the end product- not distract.


    • jbrayweber says:

      So true, Stacey. Don’t break the rules unless it works. If it doesn’t then the author may look new to the craft of writing.


  2. Kristen says:

    I’m guilty of looking up potential crimes to commit that would get me a week’s vacation of solitary confinement. Unfortunately I live in AZ, so pretty much anything I could do and still live with would put me in Arpio’s tent city which is pretty much how it is living with my family anyway, except I’m the only one picking up…


    • jbrayweber says:

      LOL, Kristen. The curse of ODC and household chores. Funny how others under the same roof can walk by the same misplaced item for days on end and it not bother them. After all, you’ll pick it up eventually. 😉


  3. jeff salter says:

    Guilty of most.
    Very cleverly written list!


  4. This was very entertaining. I would also say I’m guilty of many of these, but I don’t really FEEL guilty. For one, I love using alliteration and many of my readers attest to loving my writing because of it. I think it’s important to follow the “rules”, but we must remember that writing is an art and art is often about breaking boundaries.


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