101 Writing Tips
- Every sentence should make sense in isolation. Like that one.
- Excessive hyperbole is literally the kiss of death.
- ASBMAETP: Acronyms Should Be Memorable And Easy To Pronounce, and
SATAN: Select Acronyms That Are Non-offensive.
- Finish your point on an up-beat note, unless you can't think of one.
- Don't patronise the reader-he or she might well be intelligent enough
to spot it.
- A writer needs three qualities: creativity, originality, clarity and a
good short term memory.
- Choose your words carefully and incitefully.
- Avoid unnecessary examples; e.g. this one.
- Don't use commas, to separate text unnecessarily.
- It can be shown that you shouldn't miss out too many details.
- Similes are about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
- Avoid ugly abr'v'ns.
- Spellcheckers are not perfect; they can kiss my errs.
- Somebody once said that all quotes should be accurately attributed.
- Americanisms suck.
- Capitalising for emphasis is UGLY and DISTRACTING.
- Underlining is also a
- Mixed metaphors can kill two birds without a paddle.
- Before using a cliché, run it up the flagpole and see if anybody
- There is one cheap gimmick that should be avoided at all
- State your opinions forcefully-this is perhaps the key to
- Never reveal your sources (Alistair Watson, 1993).
- Pile on lots of subtlety.
- Sure signs of lazy writing are incomplete lists, etc.
- Introduce meaningless jargon on a strict need-to-know basis.
- The word ``gullible'' possesses magic powers and hence it
should be used with care.
- The importance of comprehensive cross-referencing will be covered
- Resist the temptation to roll up the trouser-legs of convention,
cast off the shoes and socks of good taste, and dip your toes
refreshingly into the cool, flowing waters of fanciful analogy.
- Don't mess with Mr. Anthropomorphism.
- Understatement is a mindblowingly effective weapon.
- Injecting enthusiasm probably won't do any harm.
- It is nice to be important, but it is more important
to avoid using the word `nice.'
- Appropriate metaphors are worth their weight in gold.
- Take care with pluri.
- If you can't think of the exact word that you need, look it up
in one of those dictionary-type things.
- Colons: try to do without them.
- Nouns should never be verbed.
- Do you really think people are impressed by rhetorical questions?
- Pick a font, and stick with it.
- Sufficient clarity is necessary, but not necessarily sufficient.
- Less is more. This means that a short, cryptic statement is often
preferable to an accurate, but drawn out, explanation that
lacks punch and loses the reader.
- Sarcasm-yes, I bet that will go down really well.
- The problem of ambiguity cannot be underestimated.
- Never appear cynical, unless you're sure you can get away with it.
- Many writer's punctuate incorrectly.
- Colloquialisms are for barmpots.
- There is a lot to be said for brevity.
- To qualify is to weaken, in most cases.
- Many readers assume that a word will not assume two meanings in the
- Be spontaneous at regular intervals.
- The era of the euphemism is sadly no longer with us.
- Want to be funny? Just add some exclamation marks!!!
- Want to appear whimsical? Simply append a smiley ;-)
- Some writers introduce a large number, N, of unnecessary symbols.
- Restrict your hyphen-usage.
- Choosing the correct phrase is important compared to most things.
- Some early drafts of this document had had clumsy juxtapositions.
- Try not to leave a word dangling on its own
- The number of arbitrary constants per page should not exceed .13.
- Use mathematical jargon iff it is absolutely necessary.
- And avoid math symbols unless $ a good reason.
- Poor writing effects the impact of your work.
- And the dictionary on your shelf was not put there just
- If there's a word on the tip of your tongue that you can't
quite pin down, use a cinnamon.
- If somebody were to give me a pound for every irrelevant statement
I've ever read, then I would be very surprised.
- Strangely enough, it is impossible to construct a sentence
that illustrates the meaning of the word `irony.'
- Consult a writing manual to assure that your English is correct.
- It has been suggested that some words are absolute, not relative.
This is very true.
- Be careful when forming words into a sentence-all
orderings are not correct.
- Many words can ostensibly be deleted.
- In your quest for clarity, stop at nothing.
- Complete mastery of the English language comes with conscientious study,
notwithstanding around in bars. Moreover the next page.
Inasmuch detail as possible.
- Sporting analogies won't even get you to first base.
- If you must quote, quote from one of the all-time greats
(Cedric.P. Snodworthy, 1964).
- In the absence of a dictionary, stick to words of one syllabus.
- Steer clear of word-making-up-ism.
- Readers will not stand for any intolerance.
- If there's one thing you must avoid it's over-simplification.
- Double entendres will get you in the end.
- Vagueness is the root of miscommunication, in a sense.
- Don't bother with those ``increase-your-word-power'' books that
cost an absorbent amount of money.
- Self-contradiction is confusing, and yet strangely enlightening.
- Surrealism without purpose is like fish.
- Ignorance: good writers don't even know the meaning of the word.
- The spoken word can look strange when written down, I'm afraid.
- Stimpy the Squirrel says ``Don't treat the reader like a
- Intimidatory writing is for wimps.
- Learn one new maths word every day, and you'll soon find
your vocabulary growing exponentially.
- My old high school English teacher put it perfectly when she said:
``Quoting is lazy. Express things in your own words.''
- She also said: ``Don't use that trick of
paraphrasing...... [other people's words]......
inside a quote.''
- A lack of compassion in a writer is unforgivable.
- On a scale of 0 to 10, internal consistency is very important.
- Thankfully, by the year 2016 rash predictions will be a thing of
- There is no place for overemphasis, whatsoever.
- Leave out the David Hockney rhyming slang.
- Bad writers are hopefully ashamed of themselves.
- Eschew the highfalutin.
- Sometimes you publish a sentence and then, on reflection,
feel that you shouldn't ought to have been and gone and written it
quite that way.
- Practice humility until you feel that you're really good at it.
- If there's a particular word that you can never spell, use a pnemonic.
- A strong ending is the last thing you need.
- Make sure that your title is accurate.
- Spelling dictionaries should be made compulsary.
- Sometimes, a foreign phrase can add a little `je ne sais rien.'
- In terms of writing convoluted sentences, don't.
- Let's face it, we all hate it when a writer appeals to the lowest
- Learn the basic spelling rules; don't just rely on fonetix.
- Only take writing tips from world-renounced writers.
- Writing for the non-native English speaking market is a different
kettle of fish.
- If you can't afford a book on grammar, at least find someone to lend
- Nothing is worse than ambiguity.
- Oh, and avoid afterthoughts.
(These are all original, but some are based on old jokes.)
Prof. D. J. Higham
Department of Mathematics
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, G1 1XH, UK
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