20SB Blog Swap 3

20SB Blog Swap 3 Todays guest post is brought to you by Nuttycow from Parlez-vous moo? This is all part of the 20 Something Bloggers "Blog Swap 3". Don't forget to go check out my post over at Parlez-vous moo?





Nuttycow's rules on how to write good.

George Orwell had six rules for effective writing.

· Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

· Never use a long word where a short one will do.

· If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

· Never use the passive where you can use the active.

· Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

· Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

For me, the last rule is the most important. Rules, as they say, are made to be broken (she says, breaking rule number one). Far better to write naturally and fluidly, getting your story across, than stick rigidly to a set of commandments. Please bare this in mind when reading the rest of this post…

Now, I know this subject has been written to death but hell, I should get the chance to share my £0.02 worth too (or, I suppose for American readers, my $0.02 worth).

Spelling: Spell cheque is their for a reason. Of course, it won’t catch all the spelling mistakes you might make, but it’s a start.

Grammar: If you’re not sure on the order of words, when to use “whom” and when to use “who”, look it up. Honestly, it’ll make your writing easier much to read.

Basic knowledge: Our or are? Your or you’re? Their or there? To, two or too? Its or it’s? Learn the difference and where they’re used. Please.

Write as you talk: Ok, this might seem an odd one. Generally, when people speak they don’t pay much attention to syntax, semantics and all of those good things. They just talk. They get the point across. And that’s what your writing should do too. People find it much easier to understand things when it’s not covered in a myriad of long words, sub clauses and waffle.

However… at the same time adopt an appropriate tone: If you’re writing your company’s annual report, conversational style might not be the best way forward. That is, unless your company is of the Google and Innocent mould.

Layout: Writing a long piece? Lay it out properly. This means paragraphs, bullet points, varying length of sentence. Honestly, it makes it a lot easier to read. Be kind to your reader (especially if you’re writing online)

Gobbledygook: Yes, the people you live with may well know that EBM means “Evil Bastard Man” and refers to your ex-boyfriend, your audience may not. Although you might just want to to touch base and talk about some blue sky thinking, everyone else will just think you’re weird. Speak English.

Long words: You may be a naturally verbose individual. You might feel long words somehow make you the eminence grise. However, your circumlocution and affectation for using long words just makes your reader feel a little stupid.

Know your readers: Who’s reading your writing? A 5 year old? A 50 year old? Someone who knows the subject matter as well as you do? Adjust your writing accordingly.

What about you? What do you think makes good writing?


  • hahaha.

    A Grammar Nazi, I see!

    Good post!

  • I'm a Grammar Nazi TOO!!!

    This is a good list. It just about sums up how I feel as well. ESPECIALLY the point about writing like you're having a conversation. I write the way I talk, and I think I'm a fabulous writer LOL.

  • Nice post with lots of great advice.

    Too often I take for granted that everyone is in agreement about spell-check & grammar-check (even with the deficiencies in an automated grammar-check, it's better than nothing).

    Spelling, grammar and homonym usage (there/their/etc) are some of my personal pet peeves.
    [and in commenting on that, while I'm not fluent in "Queen's English", my mind wants it to be "spell check" not "spell cheque"...can someone confirm?]

    The last half of the post focuses on another topic that people don't think enough about when writing...who is the audience? Your audience will dictate the type of language you use, the scope of vocabulary, the amount of reference material required, the formality or informality. The post makes some good points as to different writing styles and tones. Those should definitely be kept in mind while writing.

  • Good advice there.

    The George Orwell advice amused me, I feel like he was inspired by his own novel "1984". I'm glad HE wasn't in charge of the world . . .

  • It is indeed spell check not spell cheque within the Queen's English. As you are checking not paying...

  • I find this post to be well written because it actually states EFFECTIVE writing tips and in general they are among the grammar rules as well. I did enjoy reading this post and being able to be allowed to blog swap with the author. Often people can not write as they talk...

  • ExMi - always :)

    Jaime - Glad to hear you agree. I'm sure you're a fabulous talker too!

    Okie (and Anon) - heh heh. Both fell into the trap. Of course it's check. I also use the wrong "their". My point being that spell and grammer check won't catch everything.

    Paula - I have to say, I have GO's advice on my desk at work. It keeps the mind focused!

    Kelvin - Thanks.

  • Thanks for the clarification nuttycow. That's cool that you illustrated your point by breaking it (even if it did make my head spin a little). Hope you didn't have too much angst worrying that people thought you weren't able to follow the very advice you were giving. ;)