Keith Waterhouse’s 12 Ground Rules for Writers

Keith Waterhouse’s 12 Ground Rules for Writers

Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share Keith Waterhouse’s 12 Ground Rules for Writers.

Keith Waterhouse was a British writer. He was born 6 February 1929, and died 4 September 2009.

He wrote 16 novels, including Billy Liar, many plays and film scripts, and a twice-weekly newspaper column for 40 years.

According to @LitBritish: ‘He started out as a reporter with the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1949 and later wrote for Punch, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Mirror. In 2004 he was voted most admired British contemporary columnist by the British Journalism Review.’

His writing for television includes series of That Was the Week that Was, The Frost Report, Andy Capp, and Worzel Gummidge.

These are his rules for writers.

Keith Waterhouse’s 12 Ground Rules for Writers

  1. Use specific words (red and blue) not general ones (brightly coloured).
  2. Use concrete words (rain, fog) rather than abstract ones (bad weather).
  3. Use plain words (began, said, end) not college-educated ones (commenced, stated, termination).
  4. Use positive words (he was poor) not negative ones (he was not rich—the reader at once wants to know, how not rich was he?).
  5. Don’t overstate: fell is starker than plunged.
  6. Don’t lard the story with emotive or “dramatic” words (astonishing, staggering, sensational, shock).
  7. Avoid non-working words that cluster together like derelicts (but for the fact that, the question as to whether, there is no doubt that).
  8. Don’t use words thoughtlessly. (Waiting ambulances don’t rush victims to hospital. Waiting ambulances wait. Meteors fall, so there can be no meteoric rise.)
  9. Don’t use unknown quantities (very, really, truly, quite. How much is very?).
  10. Never qualify absolutes. A thing cannot be quite impossible, glaringly obvious or most essential, any more than it can be absolutely absolute.
  11. Don’t use jargon, clichés, puns, elegant or inelegant variations, or inexact synonyms (BRAVE WIFE DIED SAVING HER SON is wrong; wife is not a synonym for mother).
  12. Words are facts. Check them (spelling and meaning) as you would any other.

Original Source For Rules: (This page is no longer active.) 

by Amanda Patterson

Posted on: 6th February 2020

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