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So William Safire, speechwriter and columnist, died today at 79. Even though he was a conservative, he seemed to be of a different breed from the crop of bozos that we have to contend with now.

He also knew a whole bunch about how to write, and we can all learn a lot from the list that he called “Fumblerules:”

  • Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  • Don’t use no double negatives.
  • Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn’t.
  • Reserve the apostrophe for it’s proper use and omit it when its not needed.
  • Do not put statements in the negative form.
  • Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  • No sentence fragments.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  • Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  • If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  • A writer must not shift your point of view.
  • Eschew dialect, irregardless.
  • And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!
  • Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  • Hyphenate between sy-
    llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.
  • Write all adverbial forms correct.
  • Don’t use contractions in formal writing.
  • Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  • It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.
  • If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  • Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
  • Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
  • Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  • Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  • Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  • If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
  • Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  • Don’t string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
  • Always pick on the correct idiom.
  • “Avoid overuse of ‘quotation “marks.”‘”
  • The adverb always follows the verb.
  • Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.
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