Here are some not-too-serious writing tips:
1. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
2. One should never generalize.
3. The passive voice is to be avoided.
4. Who needs rhetorical questions?
5. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
6. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
7. Remember to never split an infinitive.
8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
9. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
10. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
11. Avoid alliteration. Always.
12. Be more or less specific.
13. A writer must not shift your point of view.
14. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
15. Do not put statements in the negative form.
16. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
17. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
18. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
19. Take the bull by the scruff of the neck and don’t mix metaphors.
20. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; they’re so last year.
One definition of a cliché is ‘ A word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure.’ The first person to write a cliché is a genius, but the next person to use it lacks imagination. My friend Ruth Brandt wrote the piece below as a light-hearted exercise for students in her adult creative writing class. She says there are 52 clichés in it. How many can you find?
At the end of the day
It was a dark and stormy night when my old man hit the town. He had had a bit of a wake up call earlier in the week, when the doctor had read him the riot act after telling him his blood pressure was sky high, and he had declared himself to be on the wagon. You could have knocked me down with a feather because for two whole days he had stuck to his resolution, sitting like a couch potato in front of the goggle box and not a drop of the good stuff passing his lips. I was over the moon. Mind you, it was as if he’d got up on the wrong side of the bed; I had to watch my tongue. I could be barking up the wrong tree but as much as missing the booze I think he was bored to tears not being down the pub with his mates.
The final straw came the evening he couldn’t find his glasses even though he searched high and low, crashing round the house like a bull in a china shop. No TV watching for him; he’s blind as a bat without them. Having left no stone unturned, he threw in the towel and came clean, admitting he must have left them at work.
“I’m going down the pub,” he declared.
I had to think on my feet. It struck me that I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea; if I let him go he’d be back on the beer and his blood pressure could go stratospheric, and if he stayed he’d be like a bear with a sore head. Eventually I made up my mind.
“You should listen to what the doctor told you,” I said.
But he knew better, true to form he retorted:
“That advice is old hat. Bill has a list of aches and pains as long as your arm and he says that laughter is the best medicine when combined with a jar or two with mates.”
By this stage I was worried sick about him getting in his cups, but even though it was raining cats and dogs he turned on his heel and went. As a matter of fact, he was so set in his tracks he wouldn’t have stopped for all the tea in china.
After forever and a day he rolled in looking like something the cat dragged in.
“Sorry,” he murmured; he knew he didn’t really have a leg to stand on.
I turned in, leaving him catching forty winks on the sofa, because when all’s said and done, the long and the short of it is that it’s best if you don’t mention the war.
Now that I’ve drawn your attention to clichés, you’ll probably spot them everywhere which may, er, get your goat.