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Here’s to you Ms. Robinson: How to Write Good


I get a kick out of the face book posts of my Bennett High School classmate and friend, Michael Serota. When I wrote him that I ‘liked’ his below, HOW TO WRITE GOOD and wished to share it here, he wondered how Ms. Robinson, our English teacher, would react. She taught us how to diagram sentences. She didn’t get far with me.

Would she be as mad as a hatter if she saw this? I think this sentence covers # 3 and #4.

Below are Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing, which are more on the mark:

  1. Never open a book with weather.

  2. Avoid prologues.

  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.

  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Don’t you just love Leonard’s? Particularly # 10?

If you are in the NY/Long Island area and can attend my workshop on Feb. 27 from 2:00-4:00 pm at Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine at 110 N. Park Avenue, 1st Floor, Rockville Centre, New York 11570 516-764-6000 info@turnofthecorkscrew.com, I promise we won’t be diagramming sentences.

Here’s to you, Ms. Robinson, for trying to teach me and to you, Michael Serota, for the fun list.

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