Moderation: The Only Hard and Fast Rule in Writing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve all heard the “experts” quipping about these finite rules that will get us sent to the watery abyss if we break them. Show, don’t tell. Resist the urge to explain. No adverbs! Avoid passive voice.

Well, how’s a writer supposed to show any creative uniqueness if we’re all supposed to be writing the exact same way?

Now, don’t get me wrong. These guidelines are there with good reason, and writers should know what they mean and why the advice is important. We’ve all heard the saying, “You need to know the rules before you can break them.” Yeah. Get to know the rules—I mean—guidelines.

On the other hand, though, let me introduce a little word to you.

M.O.D.E.R.A.T.I.O.N.

Moderation.

I firmly believe (as do most publishing houses/editors if you look at the books they put out) that all things are okay in moderation—at least when it comes to writing books. There is no reason for us to do a search and destroy for adverbs. Yes, if there’s a stronger verb (ran quickly vs. raced/dashed/etc.), we should definitely use it. Sometimes, however, the adverb is really the best way.

If you’re reading through your manuscript, and you see adverb upon adverb—you should consider eliminating a few and using stronger verbs.

Moderation, people.

About Ralene Burke

Whether I'm wielding a writer's pen, an editor's sword, or a social media wand, I always have my head in some dreamer's world. Let's make it SHINE!
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4 Comments

  1. Amen! Thank you for this! The way these guidelines often get shoved down people’s throats is destructive to writers – both their creativity and their joy in writing. Which, in turn, affects how their work impacts readers. It’s better to gently guiding someone in how to use all things in moderation.

    • Yes. I totally believe in knowing the reasons why so you’re aware of HOW to use these devices. Forbidding them leaves out room for creativity and voice.

  2. Moderation in all things … including moderation. ;)
    Tell a good story. Break rules when necessary.

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