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Read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Good Writing

In 2001, author Elmore Leonard, who died this morning at the age of 87, wrote a piece for the New York Times in which he laid out, very simply, his ten rules for good writing. You can read the entire piece, with explanations, over at the Times' site, but here are the basic precepts. Print them out. Stick them above your desk. Use them wisely.

  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.
Photo: Marc Hauser Photography Ltd/Hulton Archive