Sunday, June 7, 2009

Editing and Rules of Grammar and Style

Do not put statements in the negative form. And don't start sentences with a conjunction. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do. Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all. De-accession euphemisms. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague. ~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Sorry for the long quotation, but I just love that bit by Safire. Right now I’ve got three totally different things going on (hope this won’t be news to either of my publishers). I’m editing a completed manuscript, writing a first draft for a different series, and gearing up to promote an August release.

I thought I’d surely say that the promotional stuff is the worst out of the three, but I think the editing/revision has won out.

Actually, I frequently break many of Safire’s rules. I guess my style of writing is colloquial….or chatty. It’s conversational, at any rate. I frequently have fragments in dialogue or in narrative, I’ll start with conjunctions, and end with linking verbs. I was an English major and know these things are real boo-boos, but no one has stopped me yet. I mean, editors have really revised my writing, but not the stuff I thought they might go after.

This makes me wonder….are the rules changing? Are we relaxing some of our grammatical and style standards? And why aren’t I feeling horrified if that’s true? I’m definitely a word nerd and I keep thinking I should shape up, but when I follow the rules (particularly in dialogue), my text sounds really stiff.

Here are some fun sites for all the other word nerds out there:

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