Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

Great American novelist Elmore Leonard, who passed away Tuesday after complications from a stroke at the age of 87, penned in 2001 for the New York Times a piece on the 10 rules of good writing.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing

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Elmore Leonard was honored in 2012 with a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters, joining a group that includes Arthur Miller and Toni Morrison. "I don´t see any objection to my being on this list," he says.
Elmore Leonard was honored in 2012 with a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters, joining a group that includes Arthur Miller and Toni Morrison. "I don't see any objection to my being on this list," he says.

Great American novelist Elmore Leonard, who passed away Tuesday after complications from a stroke at the age of 87, penned in 2001 for the New York Times a piece on the 10 rules of good writing. The following is an abridged version of Leonard's article. Read the complete piece, here.

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10," he wrote. "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Read more on Leonard's illustrious career and contributions, here.

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