proverbs from Roger’s writing lair (with a nod to Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”)



simple, declarative sentences are not necessarily better than complex ones; the converse is equally true

clarity is a desideratum, but it is not necessarily a bad thing to challenge the reader

loose verbiage is not a hallmark of good writing — pruning is desirable; but, shorter is not always better (nor is the most concise style a prioi the best one)

objectivity and balance are often desirable, but not at the cost of dullness; the opposite, a fulsome, over the top, raging screed, is usually not worth reading

subtlety and irony can be as desirable as making one’s point bluntly and forcefully; it depends

no argument can stand on its own without support by way of evidence, details, illustrative examples, etc.; and, explication

vagueness and fuzziness are to be avoided; but, abstractions and abstract words do not, per se, amount to the same thing

it is not necessarily a fault to digress, or to yoke disparate topics in a single piece (but one should avoid the possibility of the reader getting lost or confused)

speaking directly to the reader and/or making an abstract argument more personal are not “wrong”

draw on your own experience where appropriate

sentence fragments can work, if used sparingly, in the right place (but not abused)

punctuation should not be dispensed with merely for the sake of convenience

comma splices are almost always an avoidable and unjustifiable error

adverbs can be overused, but they are not necessarily “bad”; it depends (the same can be said for adjectives)

vulgarity is almost always a mistake

connectors such as moreover, however, and on the contrary are essential and desirable for coherence, but they can be overused; coherence can often be achieved in more subtle ways

filler words and qualifiers such as as it were and so to speak can sometimes serve a purpose

emphasis is key; it is not always or simply a matter of putting the key idea at the end

time honored grammar rules should be heeded and not ignored simply out of ignorance or on account of laziness or political correctness

fifty cent words are not verboten; recherché words and foreign terms should not necessarily be shunned

clichés are not always bad

good writers are allowed to break the rules, but first they must know them



— Roger W. Smith

    January 2018

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