Writing tips for applications

I give many graduates the advice about wording their applications, and find myself saying the same things over and over again*.  This ‘guide’ made me laugh but makes a serious point that good practice in writing is universal.  One should only break the rules when one knows how to follow them!

How to write good
by Frank L. Visco

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules.

  1. Avoid alliteration.  Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid clichés like the plague.  (They’re old hat).
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalise.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.’
  12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  13. Don’t be redundant, don’t use more words than necessary, it’s highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Understatement is always best.
  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

With due thanks and acknowledgment to Grammarly a great source for both grammar geeks and those seeking advice.

*If you are interested the top mistakes I see on applications from the above list are: numbers 13, 20, 15, 4 and 3.

One response to “Writing tips for applications”

  1. 24. Read Orwell’s essay on writing: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit
    and always apply the cardinal rule: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

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