Inside the Capitol

Friday, July 23, 2004

Rules for Righting

SANTA FE – Several years ago, I sent some of my columns that involved southern New Mexico to Carla DeMarco, founder of the Web site, She included them in the Writers Showcase section of her Web site.
Carla didn't pay anything for the submissions, but she said it would be good publicity. I soon learned that people not only read my columns on her Web site, but that my name was at the top of nearly every Internet search engine I looked at. It does great things for the ego to think of yourself as one of the top Jay Millers in the world, even if it is only because someone is seeing to it that my name is up toward the top.
Three years ago, Carla was struck by macular degeneration, a malady I know all too well. Hers was so bad she had to give up her labor of love. Last year she sold to Erinn and David Burch, who have kept the site going.
Carla had some strict parameters about what she would put on her Web site. One of them was to keep everything upbeat. That's logical and really great, except that it doesn't always fit in with a political columnist's cynical nature. When I would stray, she would remind me.
Thus I wasn't surprised when I received an e-mail from her titled, Rules for Writers. I printed it out and noticed there was a full page of rules. With a sigh, I set them aside to be read when I was in the right frame of mind. When I came back to them, here's what I found.
1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
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.
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Be careful to use the rite homonym.
14. One should never generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
18. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
19. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
23. DO NOT use exclamation points and all caps to emphasize!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
26. Who needs rhetorical questions?
27. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
28. Do not put statements in the negative form.
29. A writer must not shift your point of view.
30.Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
31.Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
32. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
33. Always pick on the correct idiom.
34. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
And finally…
35. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
I've kept Carla’s list tacked beside my computer for several years. It gives me lots of chuckles and is one of my most requested columns. And occasionally, it even helps me get my righting write.


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