Sometimes a pithy little thought is more powerful than a detailed explanation. Here's a list of rules that work for me, first presented here in 2016 and shared again by request.
1. A good writer is observant and disciplined. “Smart” is not nearly as important.
2. Get the facts right and the style will take care of itself.
3. Hard work beats imagination.
4. Successful writers treat writing like a job.
5. When you're stuck, take your work to a new location.
6. If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.
7. Another edit will always improve things, but at some point you have to choose to be finished.
8. A long piece is many shorter pieces.
9. You don’t write well with music on. You are not the exception.
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10. Some people obsess over AP style. Some people obsess over the quality of their writing. They are not the same people.
11. Get rid of adverbs.
12. How words sound is as important as what they mean.
13. One appropriate adjective is better than two.
14. Use passive voice only when you know why you’re doing so.
15. Shorter is always better.
16. The only writer who breaks a rule of grammar well is a writer who knows the rule he is breaking and why.
17. Avoid semi-colons.
18. The Oxford comma forecloses on ambiguity. The AP comma rule sacrifices that clarity for a saved keystroke.
19. There is no place for comic sans.
20. A Janson font will make your writing look “literary.”
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21. Part of getting published is luck.
22. Excellence guarantees nothing.
23. You can write to satisfy yourself alone, but don’t expect anybody to pay you for it.
24. The more places you pitch something, the more likely it is to be published.
25. Sometimes the writer who gets the job is the one who kept asking after everyone else stopped.
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