Writing Tips from the Grammar God
Here are the much loved headings from

Abney's Patented Style Guide
(also available in the original, full format: Get Acrobat Reader.)


1.   Steer clear of passive voice: tell who did what, not what was done by whom.

2.   Use the indefinite pronoun one if your comment pertains to everyone in general, but no one in particular.  Use the pronoun I if you are expressing a personal opinion.

3.   Assume you have a sympathetic, interested, generally informed reader, neither idiotic nor expert on your topic.

4.   Big words don't impress.  You may sound pretentious, or you may misuse them.

5.   Learn to hear what you are writing.  If you can't imagine yourself saying it out loud, even to that sympathetic, interested reader, then don't write it, either.

6.   Provide accurate citations.  Enable the reader to clarify points or just to learn more.  (This point may not pertain to writing that consists of pure opinion.)

7.   Do not cite facts.  (May vary by subject.  History papers tend to include far more citations of facts than do literature papers treating the same broad cultural area.)

8.   Likewise, do not cite general knowledge.  (Ditto.)

9.   Cite any opinions and all ideas you borrow.

10. No contractions in formal writing!  do not, not don't

11. AD goes before the year, BC after.

12. Otherwise, few abbreviations are acceptable.

13. Use forms of be sparingly (am, is, are, was, were, be, been).  Find synonyms: stand, find oneself, seem, appear.

14. Choose that as the relative pronoun for indispensable information and which, set off by commas, for noncrucial additions.
Pharsalus was the battle that sealed Pompey's fate.
vs.
Pharsalus, which is in Greece, was the site of a famous battle.

15. Cut every excess word.
The Battle of Pharsalus sealed Pompey's fate.

16. Do not split infinitives.  It may seem difficult to not do this, but it is actually easy not to do this.

17. Watch for unclear pronouns, particularly they.
They believed in many gods.  Who did?  Spell it out.

18. Never make these substitutions:
     a.  while for although
     b.  like for as if or as though
     c.  being as or seeing as (how) for because
     d.  a lot for many
     (Not to mention lay for lie; set for sit; their, there,  and
     they're; to, too, and two.  Pardon my praeteritio.)

19. The possessive pronoun for pronouns ending in --one is his, not their.

20. Beware the apostrophe.

21. Write out all numbers that can be written in one or two words.  (Dates and years constitute an obvious exception.)

22. Enumerate consistently.  Never: first, secondly, third.
      Similarly, remember that the ideal human, not to go
      speluncking in Plato's allegorical cave or anything deep
      like that, has two hands.  Therefore, no on the other
      hand unless you've used on the one hand first.

23. Know when to break a paragraph.

24. Use the preposition between only with two singular or
collective nouns.  For three or more entities, use among.

25.  A single prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence does not normally require a comma to set it off from the rest of the sentence unless it violently disrupts the narrative flow.
In one day Caesar's army bridged the Saone.
Throughout Rome were many temples to foreign divinities.
but
In contrast, most Romans accepted the new emperor without protest.

26.  Use commas before subject-verb clauses introduced by and, or, nor, but, but not by that, after, because, or other subordinating conjunctions.

27. A comma and the conjunction and should precede the last item in a series.

28. Use American standards for spelling and punctuation:
theater, not theatre; double quotes ("), not single quotes (').

29. Analyze subject-verb agreement carefully.  In short, singular subject, singular verb (one of the leaders is); plural subject, plural verb.  This one can take some thought.

30.  None is generally singular, but sometimes plural.
Good writing can steer you through life.  Few problems and obstacles in life prove so great that you cannot  successfully write your way over, around, or through them.
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In the Pantheon
of Great Writers









Julius CAESAR
(100 BC-44 BC)









Johann Wolfgang
von GOETHE
(1749-1832)









Edgar Allan POE
(1809-1849)









Walt WHITMAN
(1819-1892)
RELIABLE LINKS FOR CLASSICS

NOTE: Not every link from these major sites is as good as the major sites themselves.

1.  The Latin Library
2.  The Classics Page
3.  Forum Romanum
4.  World Mythology (a comprehensive source, but watch out for anything labeled "neo-pagan")
5.  Mythweb
(good but simplistic)
6.  Odyssey text online
7. The Ptolemies (Cleopatra's family)
8.  Women in Ancient Egypt
9.  Iliad text online
10. Aeneid text online

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This page was last updated: June 8, 2014