Whenever I write a post about the linguistic principles underlying common writing rules, someone suggests I should write a book about this stuff. One day I might well do that, but I thought I'd start with a series of essays here, and see whether it ends up book-length after a few months.
So I have a question for all of my readers - many of whom, I know, also enjoy writing. What writing rules have you heard thrown around? I don't at this stage mind whether you agree with them or not (there are, after all, exceptions to everything). I'm interested in capturing a big list of rules and cliches, and I'll work on explaining those that I can, from a scientific linguist's perspective.
As a starter for ten, here are a few rules off the top of my head. I've heard all these repeated often, and usually without any particular explanation attached:
- Always use "said" for speech
- Don't use adverbs
- Don't use passive voice
- Show don't tell
- Make your dialogue sound natural
- Never use a long word if a short one will do
- Scrap prologues & epilogues
- Read your work out loud to hear its rhythm