Not long ago, I advertised for perverse rules of grammar, along the lines of Remember to never split an infinitive and The passive voice should never be used. The notion of making a mistake while laying down rules (Thimk, We Never Make Misteaks) is highly unoriginal and it turns out that English teachers have been circulating lists of fumblerules for years. As owner of the world's largest collection and with thanks to scores of readers, let me pass along a bunch of these never-say-neverisms:* Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read. * Don't use no double negatives.* Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.* Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.* Do not put statements in the negative form.* Verbs has to agree with their subjects.* No sentence fragments.* Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.* Avoid commas, that are not necessary.* If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.* A writer must not shift your point of view.* Eschew dialect, irregardless.* And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.* Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.* Writers should always hyphenate between syllables and avoid un-necessary hyph-ens.* Write all adverbial forms correct.* Don't use contractions in formal writing.* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.* It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.* Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.* Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.* If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.* Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.* Don't string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.* Always pick on the correct idiom.* Avoid overuse of 'quotation marks.'* The adverb always follows the verb.* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.(New York Times, November 4, 1979; later also published in book form)
William Safire
He told me that from now on, everything I did and everything he did was of the utmost importance: any word spoken, the slightest gesture, would take on a meaning and everything that happened between us would change us continually. 'For that reason,'he said,'I wish I were able to suspend time at this moment and keep things exactly at this point, because I feel this instant is a true beginning. We have a definite but unknown quantity of experience at our disposal. As soon as the hourglass is turned, the sand will begin to run out and once it starts, it cannot stop until it's all gone. That's why I wish I could hold it back at the start. We should make a minimum of gestures, pronounce a minimum of words, even see each other as seldom as possible, if that would prolong things. We don't know how much of everything we have ahead of us so we have to take the greatest precautions not to destroy the beauty of what we have. Everything exists in limited quantity-especially happiness. If a love is to come into being, it is all written down somewhere and also its duration and content. If you could arrive at the complete intensity the first day, it would be ended the first day. And so if it's something you want so much that you'd like to have it prolonged in time, you must be extremely careful not to make the slightest excessive demand that might prevent it from developing to the greatest extent over the longest period...If the wings of the butterfly are to keep their sheen, you mustn't touch them. We mustn't abuse something which is to bring light into both our lives. Everything else in my life only weighs me down and shuts out the light. This thing wih you seems like a window that is opening up. I want it to remain open...
Françoise Gilot