Tag Archives: rules

Fumblerules of grammar

I’ve actually blogged about this list before, but didn’t know its provenance (or have the full quota) until I came across an entry on it via the excellent LISTS OF NOTE:

Late-1979, New York Times columnist William Safire compiled a list of “Fumblerules of Grammar” — rules of writing, all of which are humorously self-contradictory — and published them in his popular column, “On Language.” Those 36 fumblerules can be seen below, along with another 18 that later featured in Safire’s book, Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage.

Trivia: Safire previously worked as a speechwriter and was, in 1969, responsible for penning Nixon’s thankfully unused and incredibly chilling, “IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER” speech.

(Source: Maximum Awesome; Image: William Safire in 1968, courtesy ofNYTimes.)

  1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  2. A preposition is something never to end a sentence with.
  3. The passive voice should never be used.
  4. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  5. Don’t use no double negatives.
  6. Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn’t.
  7. Reserve the apostrophe for it’s proper use and omit it when its not needed.
  8. Do not put statements in the negative form.
  9. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  10. No sentence fragments.
  11. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  12. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  13. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  14. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  15. Eschew dialect, irregardless.
  16. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  17. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!
  18. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  19. Hyphenate between sy-llables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.
  20. Write all adverbial forms correct.
  21. Don’t use contractions in formal writing.
  22. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  23. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.
  24. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  25. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
  26. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  27. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  28. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  29. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  30. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
  31. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  32. Don’t string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
  33. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  34. “Avoid overuse of ‘quotation “marks.”‘”
  35. The adverb always follows the verb.
  36. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.
  37. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  38. Employ the vernacular.
  39. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  40. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  41. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  42. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  43. One should never generalize.
  44. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  45. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  46. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  47. Be more or less specific.
  48. Understatement is always best.
  49. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  50. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  51. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  52. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  53. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  54. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with a point

Out of my way! (pavement politics explained)

1. Tourists walk 3.79 feet per second; 2. Smokers: 4.17 feet per second; 3. Cellphone users: 4.20 feet per second; 4. Headphone listeners: 4.64 feet per second; 5. Large pedestrians: 3.74 feet per second; 6. Men: 4.42 feet per second; 7. Women: 4.10 feet per second; 8. People with bags: 4.27 feet per second.

According to the Wall Street Journal, tourists really do walk more slowly.

For many people, few things are more infuriating than slow walkers—those seemingly inconsiderate people who clog up sidewalks, grocery aisles and airport hallways while others fume behind them.

Researchers say the concept of “sidewalk rage” is real. One scientist has even developed a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map out how people express their fury. At its most extreme, sidewalk rage can signal a psychiatric condition known as “intermittent explosive disorder,” researchers say. On Facebook, there’s a group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head” that boasts nearly 15,000 members.

Some researchers are even studying the dynamics that trigger such rage and why some people remain calm in hopes of improving anger-management treatments and gaining insights into how emotions influence decision making, attention and self control.

“We’re trying to understand what makes people angry, what that experience is like,” says Jerry Deffenbacher, a professor at Colorado State University who studies anger and road rage. “For those for whom anger is a personal problem, we’re trying to develop and evaluate ways of helping them.”

How Walkable Is Your Neighborhood?
Signs of a sidewalk rager include muttering or bumping into others; uncaringly hogging a walking lane; and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a “mean face” or approaching others too closely, says Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii who studies pedestrian and driver aggression.

For the cool-headed, sidewalk rage may seem incomprehensible. After all, it seems simple enough to just go around the slow individual. Why then are some people, even those who greet other obstacles with equanimity, so infuriated by unhurried fellow pedestrians?

How one interprets the situation is key, researchers say. Ragers tend to have a strong sense of how other people should behave. Their code: Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

(read the full article here)

On writing

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”