Armless and Legless

Our wonderful interwebs are full of blogs and writing websites that showcase an endless procession of writing advice and tips. We’ve discussed the pros and cons here on Indies Unlimited many times, so I don’t want to go over old ground. While planning the content of this post in the quiet small hours, however, it seemed like a good idea at the time to take a slightly skewed, bizarro-world look at writing tips using our trusty list format. Now, it seems… well, slightly stupid. But since I didn’t have a backup, here it is, anyway: a new kind of list. Twenty Five Writing Tips That Probably Suck. Seriously, though, I’m not wasting anyone’s time: loosely hidden within this apparent drivel are some actual decent tips, once they’re extricated and unpacked. You’ll see.

1. Understatement is absolutely essential. Without it, you’re dead in the water. In fact, there’s no hope whatsoever.
2. Avoid semicolons; they’re just not necessary.
3. The complete avoidance of passive clauses is very much advised by me.
4. Weather ewe think your aloud two ore knot … always rely on you’re spellchecker.
5. Eschew ostentatious verbosity, and exhibit an overall predisposition toward a paucity of embellishment.
6. Eighty-six dialect unless yer lugholes are mint, yo.
7. If you inject opinion, I think you should be struck from the author’s list, skewered on a buck elk’s rack during rutting season, and parboiled in liquefied hamster entrails.
8. Over-explaining can lead to a kind of paralysis on the part of the reader, during which their mental processes become overloaded and, in a classic demonstration of diminishing returns, become less able to absorb the full import of your writing, which behooves you to restrict exposition to a minimum, when all is said and done.
9. Entre nous, while foreign languages are awesome, au courant bon mots may appear excessive if they become de rigeur, and may even invite schadenfreude, so caveat emptor, and try to avoid this type of mea culpa or faux pas, comprende?
10. Omit, pare and cull entirely redundant, superfluous and needless words.
11. Pay great attention, to how you use punctuation.
12. As I once thought-spoke to that gelatinous glob of alien protoplasm from Arcturus over a pint of fermented gerbil spleens, write what you know!
13. Do not use commas, to bracket phrases, that are essential to a sentence’s meaning.
14. Never let someone else edit edit your own work; it’s you’re baby, and besides, you don’t know wear they’ve been.
15. Stop!! Think about the overuse of exclamation points!!
16. Make hay while the iron’s hot and don’t mix your metaphors.
17. My impression is that it’s probably not the best idea to be sort of vague about stuff.
18. Make sure your grammar works good.
19. Always finish what you
20. Do not construct gobsmackingly awkward adverbs.
21. Do not misuse apostrophe’s.
22. In dialogue, be sure the reader knows who’s speaking, said the Dalai Lama.
23. Avoid tired clichés like the plague. When you notice one in your writing, hone in on your target and deep six it with extreme prejudice.
24. A while back, right over there someplace, I was talking to some guy about this one: be specific with details.
25. As Orwell once said, only to immediately break his own rule: “never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” George, dude, you were awesome and stuff, but isn’t “figure of speech” itself a, um, figure of speech?

I kid, of course. Orwell knew what he was talking about. Otherwise, how else would he have teamed up with that Rickenbacker dude to invent popcorn? And now, as a treat for wading through my inanities, here’s another guy who actually knew what he was talking about, so much so that he once said “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Exactly. Now he’s the type of guy you need to listen to. Not me, him. Sadism and cockroaches notwithstanding.

Author: David Antrobus

Born in Manchester, England, author David Antrobus currently lives in British Columbia. David also edits and writes in many styles and genres, from nonfiction to dark fantasy. He worked for twenty years with abused teens. You can also find David at his blog and at his Amazon author page.

34 thoughts on “Armless and Legless”

  1. Funny, David, very funny. Thanks to you I greet this wet, cold and miserable Saturday morning with a smile. Oh, by the way, I’m writing from Tasmania.

  2. Mr. Antrobus, for pete's sake, you've honestly included thousands of my go to writing idiosyncrasies that it's not even funny. Shut the front door, this was so so funny. Right on target. 'yore e smat une, aren't yee'?! ((hoogs))

  3. I really enjoyed this post 🙂 And the video was dessert. Exclamation mark followed by mea culpa 😉

    1. Good, it isn't too convoluted then. There's always this small anxiety wondering whether someone will a) take me too seriously and b) not take me seriously enough! Half the time, I don't even know, myself.

  4. David,

    Chuckling this morning over this post, thanks! A fun moment of procrastination before turning my internal whip back on and slaving over my JuNoWriMo project again.

    BTW–Arcturus? And from Vancouver? I'm a total Stargate fangirl so I couldn't help but wonder. . . . McKay has to be the best-crafted character on television. Ever. Right?


    1. Oh, pure coincidence, Jen. I haven't actually seen Stargate. I just picked a cool-sounding star name. Oddly enough, and I know this is a different thing altogether. I just got a hold of the complete series of Firefly on Blu-ray.

      1. Seriously? That is just freaking bizarre. Ok, David. You need a serious education in science fiction! Start with Firefly, though–because it will leave you wanting more, that’s for d*%$ sure. Stargate was filmed in Vancouver I believe–so shame on you for not supporting your fellow countryman! You have to see the McKay character to believe it, though. Hubris, brilliance, vulnerability and angst galore. A glorious thing!

        Enjoy Firefly! Oh, to be a Firefly virgin again. . . .

  5. Absolutely gobsmacked by your tips but what I must thank you for from the bottom of my top is your inclusion of Kurt Vonnegut's tips on writing a short story. I feel I should use a semicolon but fear it would be misinterpreted as a wink. (So I may as well just wink parenthetically 😉

    1. You may be onto something, Ed. Our semicolon phobia may well stem from a fear of accidentally winking. Similarly, next time I try to type an 8 inside a parenthesis and a happy face in sunglasses appears, I am going to kill the entire internet.

      But yes. The Vonnegut stuff is indeed gold.

      1. Not to mention the use of an asterisk which is perhaps the most anal of all punctuation * hi ho David and thanks for the great article.

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