J. Kelly Robison


There are few things that aggrevate an instructor more than reading a paper or an essay exam turned in by a college student and finding grammatical mistakes. Granted, under time pressure during an exam, mistakes are bound to occur. But there are no excuses for mistakes made on papers. There should have been plenty of time to correct mistakes. (proofread!)

The following is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it serves the purpose of showing what not to do in your writing.


by William Safire

1. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.

2. Don't use no double negatives.

3. Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.

4. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.

5. Do not put statements in the negative form.

6. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

7. No sentence fragments.

8. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

9. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.

10. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

11. A writer must not shift your point of view.

12. Eschew dialect, irregardless.

13. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

14. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!

15. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

16. Hyphenate between sy-llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.

17. Write all adverbial forms correct.

18. Don't use contractions in formal writing.

19. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

20. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.

21. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

22. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.

23. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.

24. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

25. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

26. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

27. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.

28. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.

29. Don't string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

30. Always pick on the correct idiom.

31. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks.""'

32. The adverb always follows the verb.

33. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

The New York Times Magazine
November 4, 1979

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