1 of 20 Tips On Re-Writing by Matthew Salesses

10. Style guide (this is mine, and might not be for everyone, but I’m thinking music and readability):

  • Value nouns and verbs over adjectives and especially adverbs.
  • Value consonants over vowels.
  • Value hard consonants (e.g. k) over soft consonants (e.g. g).
  • Value words of one syllable over words of two syllables over words of three syllables, etc. Though precision is important, and sometimes the right word is the longer word.
  • Each sentence should include more stressed syllables than unstressed syllables (a la Lish).
  • A sentence with a masculine ending (stressed syllable) sounds stronger than one with a feminine ending (unstressed syllable).
  • Avoid using the word was when possible. A lot of this has to do with using the right action verb.
  • Avoid introductory clauses (e.g. Closing my eyes, I smiled) except when used as time or location markers (At five o’clock, When I got back from the store, In the supermarket).
  • Using common words, or colloquial words, in new ways, is more interesting than using uncommon words in normal ways.
  • Avoid “begin” or “start” or intermediate actions (e.g. I began to sing. He started walking. He got up from the couch and went to the door. Just write: I sing. He walked. He went to the door.)
  • Value consonance and assonance over alliteration.
  • In almost all instances, use “say” or “ask” instead of other dialogue tags.

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