On Safire

One of my political and grammatical heroes, William Safire, left this world today.  His unabashed conservatism was refreshing, but so was his dedication to our wonderfully complex language -- he delighted in idiosyncrasies and condemned sloppiness.

A few years ago, my father gave me "How Not to Write."  It's great fun to read, and I imagine Safire enjoyed writing immensely -- airing the grievances that accumulated during a lifetime of work in journalism.  The book consists of fifty common mistakes, each contained in a wittily incorrectly-phrased rule.  I'll list ten of my favorites here, and if you beg and plead, I just might list ten more:

  1. No sentence fragments.

  2. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.

  3. A writer must not shift your point of view.

  4. Do not put statements in the negative form.

  5. Make an all out effort to hyphenate when necessary but not when un-necessary.

  6. Don't use Capital Letters without a good REASON.

  7. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.

  8. Write adverbs correct.

  9. Everyone should make sure that their pronouns agree with its antecedent.

  10. I've told you a thousand times to resist hyperbole.