Q: I am told you have some rules for writing. What are they?
A: Yes, you may have seen the title of this post. I do have some rules for writing. I recommend a copy be safety-pinned to every journalist’s forehead. They are as follows:
– Write for the reader who disagrees with you most. You should have anticipated every possible counterpoint. Let them gasp like landed fish as they struggle to reply.
– Elegance of rhythm. Don’t clatter like an old roller coaster.
– Eclecticism of sources.
– Never make a claim you do not believe completely to be the case (no B.S.)
– Never too dry. Always sprinkle with panache.
– Never too writerly. Always be crisp. Your words must be released carefully like baby birds, not tumble out like schoolchildren from a hamper.
– For God’s sake make it funny.
– Obviously, avoidance of cliche.
– Never begin with a quote.
– Don’t flag in the middle.
– Must appear effortless. They are not to see the process under any circumstances.
– Banish jargon. Also banish slogans and easy phrases that appeal to the base.
– Everything with a wink.
– Brevity and clarity are not the same. The former is overrated; stay as long as it takes to get the job done, but don’t make a mess of it.
– Ignore the prohibition on exclamation points. Some things ought to be exclaimed at!
– Never use a word that has been used before (this rule can be bent if necessity absolutely demands it).
– Beautiful endings that sock you in the gut.