Rules to write by

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As an editor, I have my personal pet peeves when reading others' work; as a writer I'm well aware that my editors may roll their eyes from time to time at some of my quirks and/or bad habits. It's all in a day's work in the business of publishing.

If I were Santa Claus' special agent in charge of picking out gifts for those who work with words, I'd stuff Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing (William Morrow, 91 pages, $14.95) in the stockings of needy writers everywhere...

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

I will admit I've never read any of Leonard's books, but I read this one all the way through. OK, it's only 90 pages and there are as many illustrations as there are text blocks. (Lovely work by artist Joe Ciardiello, by the way.)

Not only should all writers — and editors for that matter — keep this little volume handy, they also should read it about once a week so as not to forget things like Rule No. 3: Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue." And No. 4: Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said."

Though I like Rule No. 6: Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose," I could add a few more words and phrases to the list: "unique"; 'Tis the season; "It's that time year again"; "on pins and needles."

I'll stop there. Suffice it to say (that phrase could well go under Rule #6), we all have our literary annoyances and should probably make our own Top 10 rules and exchange them among each other.

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I wonder if good Mr. Leonard, whose books I love, addressed my biggest pet peeves...starting sentences with "And" or "But". I admit my favorite writing guide is the good old Los Angeles Times Style Book...

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This page contains a single entry by Teresa Budasi published on November 5, 2007 7:32 AM.

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