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Quotes of the day: William Safire
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Published Tuesday, December 17, 2013 @ 4:32 AM EST
Dec 17 2013

William Lewis Safire (December 17, 1929 - September 27, 2009) was an American author, columnist, journalist, and presidential speechwriter. He was perhaps best known as a long-time syndicated political columnist for the New York Times and the author of "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine, a column on popular etymology, new or unusual usages, and other language-related topics from its inception.

His list of grammar and usage rules, which appeared in the New York Times on November 4, 1979, was later published in book form and has been widely distributed- usually without attribution- on the Internet.

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  • 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.
  • Writers should always hyphenate between syllables and avoid un-necessary hyph-ens.
  • 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 clichés like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

Categories: Quotes of the day, William Safire


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