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Writers Tips #83: 29 Blunders from William Noble

writers tips

Great tips for soon-to-be great writers

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

In William Noble’s pithy book on writing mistakes, Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders, he lists 29 mistakes you never ever–I mean ever–want to make as a writer. If you wonder about any of these, buy his book and read the relevant chapter.

Here they are:

  1. Don’t write for your eighth grade teacher
  2. Don’t complicate the obvious
  3. Don’t be a slave to a grammar guru
  4. Don’t let that point of view waver
  5. Don’t freeze and formalize language
  6. Don’t use journalese or slangify words and phrases
  7. Don’t overuse the thesaurus
  8. Don’t underuse the dictionary
  9. Don’t duck the punch in punctuation
  10. Don’t wallow in a sentence straightjacket
  11. Don’t write the perfect paragraph
  12. Don’t get trick and jazzy with style
  13. Don’t add adverbs and adjectives to prettify your prose
  14. Don’t sprinkle the poet’s urge over the narrator’s product
  15. Don’t let rhythm and sound turn sour
  16. Don’t dabble with smoky words
  17. Don’t expect the maid to clean up your mess
  18. Don’t hug fad words without your fingers crossed
  19. Don’t get cute with spellings and dialogue
  20. Don’t wave away cliches and botched metaphors
  21. Don’t passify your very voice
  22. Don’t hide parallelisms in the prose
  23. Don’t ignore effective italics
  24. Don’t repeat without relevance
  25. Don’t assume author absolutism
  26. Don’t wrap characters in the same grammar blanket
  27. Don’t neglect grammar when mood and atmosphere change
  28. Don’t underestimate the richness of the English language
  29. Don’t be afraid to make your own rules

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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6 thoughts on “Writers Tips #83: 29 Blunders from William Noble

  1. Yes I did correct them all. The author saw me yesterday and apologized for not catching them, and thanked me for my help. You’re right too – it’s so tough to evaluate content when grammar/spelling are glaring issues throughout.


  2. Hi Remember me my name is Tom I have ALS. My book April 19, 2011 Living with ALS is going good I am on chapter 10 and 15,000 words so far.

    Thank You so much for your writer tips, you are heaven sent you can’t believe how helpful you been to my life.


    • Good to hear from you, Tom. I’m glad it’s going well. That’s a story I think will interest lots of people. I’m so glad I can be of assistance. I post about what interests/helps me, so you and I must have a lot in common.


  3. Hehe, I especially love #17! I spent my Saturday evening lovingly proofreading a scientific manuscript for one of our junior researchers. It became painfully obvious within just a few sentences that a basic grammar & spellcheck, courtesy of Word, hadn’t even been performed. I really felt like the maid for a couple of hours.


    • Why do people do that? It happens occasionally in my writer’s group. People put out a first draft with errors. Some say they don’t need to correct g&s because they just want feedback on content, but the reader can’t get past g&s to content when there are too many (read: more than one a page).

      Did you correct them all?


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