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How to Write Good

by Frank Visco

(with additions by Peter C.S. Adams) (and corrections by Nick Adams)


My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:


  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

  3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)

  4. Employ the vernacular.

  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.

  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

  10. One should never generalise.

  11. No quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.’

  12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

  13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

  14. Profanity sucks.

  15. Be more or less specific.

  16. Understatement is always best.

  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

  18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.

  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

  24. Don’t use no double negatives.

  25. You will never have been needing the future imperfect tense.

  26. Don’t use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.

  27. Proof-read carefully to see if you any words out.


At the time this was sent to me

Frank L. Visco was a vice-president and senior copywriter at USAdvertisingeter

Peter C.S. Adams (no relation) was co-owner of the PAGEMAKER mailing list.

Nick Adams was a lecturer in Theology at the University of Edinburgh

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