I recently ran across one of those “surefire writing tips” type articles that makes me want to weep or shriek. Maybe both. It amazes me that we keep circulating some of the same tired truisms round and round the internets. Some of my Non-Favorites:
Make your Sentences Short
It’s true that few people want to read paragraph long sentences. However, if you cut every sentence you have in two or try to keep everything to ten words or less or similar advice, you end up with a choppy article or story. Use long sentences when you need them. Use short sentences where they are appropriate. Use sentence length to enhance your story’s flow. Don’t follow some arbitrarily rule about sentence length.
Don’t Use Adverbs
Adverbs are a useful part of speech. I could agree with don’t over-use adverbs, but I’m not willing to dispense with an entire word form to cater to a select crowd’s writing fetish. Use adverbs when there’s no verb that says exactly what you need to say.
No Passive Voice
Although it’s not usually appropriate for fiction, sometimes passive voice is the appropriate choice. One good example of when to use passive voice is for reports that require some distance between the narrator and the text. Mystery novels and crime fiction use this technique sometimes, proving it’s not always “wrong” even for fiction!
No Weasel Words
Of all the pat writing advice, I hate this one the least. This is advice to scour your writing for weak, unneeded, or repetitious words. I think it’s rarely well-applied. We all have our own personal “weasel” words. It’s up to you to read your writing with a critical eye and discover that you (like I do) use “very” too much. Figure out what words are your personal weasel words and crusade against them, not some arbitrary list. The weasel word lists can be helpful, but they’re only a place to start.
So that’s a few of my favorite non-favorite writing advice tips. I’m breaking the “keep it positive” rule and a couple others as well, I’m sure! I’d like to talk about the strange hatred of “ing”, but that deserves a post of its own.
Do you have any examples of writing advice that makes you weep or gnash your teeth?
- Grammar Girl: Active Voice Versus Passive Voice (quickanddirtytips.com)
- So What’s the Big Deal with Adverbs? (kwjwrites.wordpress.com)
- The Perfect Sentence (callisonjrn102.wordpress.com)
- Write Something. Anything. (jularee.wordpress.com)