Scratch the surface of many writers and inside you’ll find a language geek. Lurking within me is Ms Grammar Lady, a closet English teacher yearning to leap out and correct your dangling modifier or conjugate your misused verb. (Actually, I studieded to be an English teacher, but later trained as a pastry chef and never got back on the original track.)
For example, my inner Ms Grammer Lady will tell you, straight-faced and without any acknowledgment of the double entendre, that lay, laid, laid is the verb to use only when you’re placing something somewhere. As in “Lay the mats on the table,” or, “She laid the mats on the table.” ( I’ve even heard a published writer order the dog to “Lay down,” so don’t feel too bad if you’ve said it, too.)
Just like Dave Barry’s “Mr. Language Person,” only, unfortunately, less hilarious, Ms Grammar Lady loves devising and dispensing humorous writer rules. Here are some knee-slappers she’s come up with or adapted from a host of anonymous sources.
I and some of my writer friends consider these rules not only worth guffawing over, but useful reminders on practicing our craft. I’m hoping they’ll help guide and amuse you, too. Humor me! ( For other tips specifically aimed at food writers, check out How to Make Those Recipe Intros Tasty, and Dos & Don’ts for Cookbook Authors.)BTW, Ms Grammar Lady is always looking to expand her list, so if you’ve got any handy rules to add, please share them in a comment and I’ll post them here, too.
>Never use big words when diminutive ones suffice.
>The active voice is preferred. The passive voice is to be avoided.
>You should vary sentence type. You should vary sentence length. You should avoid repetitious constructions.
>Use that imperative. And you won’t forget to throw in the interrogative, will you?
>Avoid clichés like the plague. This is as easy as one, two, three.
>Consider employing hyperbole; it’s absolutely, positively the best literary device ever.
>Don’t be redundant or repeat yourself; it’s highly superfluous.
>Overusing particular qualifiers sometimes makes certain sentences seem wishy-washy.
>It behooves one to avoid archaic language.
>Watch those participles when dangling.
>Wow, the exclamatory can really add punch to prose!
>Poofread carefully to see if you made mistakes or anything out.
Here are some other posts on writing that you may find helpful: