The Number One Rule of Good Writing

As an editor, people ask me all the time about the number one rule of good writing. That’s easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that it’s the very same rule for the millions of striving attorneys as it is for the lonely (but optimistic!) Zamboni repair service. No, it’s not about knowing that it’s is not the possessive of it, though “its versus it’s” is the number one punctuation mistake people make. And it’s not forgetting that a singular noun requires a singular pronoun, though that’s the number one grammar mistake people make. It’s not about the fact that compliment is the number one misspelled word in every Multiple Listing Service from sea to shining sea (no offense, all you realtors). And no, good writing is not about using earthshakingly grandiose words.

Nope, the number one rule of good writing is simple: Review your work. Take the minute or so you need to double-check what you are emailing, printing, or publishing. Take the minute or so you need to double-check what is being emailed, printed, or published on your behalf. Does what is written make sense? Any words MIA? Are you really sure of the spelling of that name? Did you run the writing through spell-check? Are all your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed? Hmm?

Just those few seconds can save your bacon.

We are in such a rush nowadays that too often we don’t stop, go back, take a breath, and just read. How hard is that? Answer: not hard at all.

Because if there’s one rule in life, my friends, it’s this: You never know when you’ll need to know how to spell Zamboni.