On Writing: 7 New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve written about New Year’s Resolutions before. You can click here to read them.

This is a bittersweet time of the year. Things are coming to a close. We appreciate where we’ve been and imagine what’s next.

In that spirit, let’s take a moment to reflect upon some things we’d like to leave behind for good in 2012.

For example, maybe you resolve not to walk around town wearing those hideous toe shoe-things anymore. Especially when paparazzi are underfoot (sorry).

Kate Hudson, how could you?

Kate Hudson having a bad shoe day (vibramfivefingers.com, INFphoto)

Or, maybe you’ve promised your mom you’ll remove that soooo October 2012 Romney/Ryan tattoo (let’s not get into those lower lip piercings; one step at a time).


Nice pumpkins. (abcnews.com; Eric Hartsburg/Facebook)

And your writing? Here are seven things you can stop doing right now that’ll make you look absolutely brilliant in 2013 and beyond:

#1: Putting. Periods. After. Every. Goddamn. Word. This needs to stop. Now. Oops. Fuck! (see #5).

#2: Get out. Ahh, the “Got milk?” ad campaign. The original Got milk? Aaron Burr ad was great back in 1993, but milk consumption has plummeted since then. Got tired writing something original? Put “got” in front of whatever you’ve got! But guess what? Whatever you’ve got, we don’t want.

no, but I do someplace else. (MilkingGotMilk.com)

No, but I got pain somewhere else. (MilkingGotMilk.com)

#3: Stop trying to do my job. Let’s say you hired a copywriter to write something for you (and probably a graphic designer to make it look good, while I’m at it). Do I run around trying to cut your damn hair, do your dental work, or [insert your own job here]? No? Then stop trying to do mine.

#4: Slapping quotation marks on anything that’s not dialogue or the name of something. Jon Stewart and his writers call them “dick fingers.” Simple rule: You look like a dick when you use them. If you’re writing something, especially for business, using quotes means that you don’t really mean what you say–and no matter what you’ve got (see #2), your audience won’t like it.

Example: A corporate client recently asked me to ‘spice up a “Sell” Sheet.’ I snorted, then emailed back:

We need to stop using dick fingers. ugh! It’s not a “sell” sheet. It’s a SELL SHEET.

If you’re not quoting someone or referring to something verbatim, please don’t stick quotes around it!

#5: Exclamation points! That last sentence in #4 brings me to exclamation points. Please refrain. Remember that one end is pointy and sharp. Those things could hurt you if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re writing something while sitting in a cube (or an office), whatever it is you’re writing about isn’t exciting enough to require using them. Trust me on this.

#6: Your vs. you’re. In days of yore, people didn’t mess this up as much, because if they did, their fingers (not “there fingers”) got whacked with a ruler. Use “your” to mean “it’s your writing” (not “its your writing”). “You’re” = “you are.”

#7: It’s the clichés, stupid. I devoted an entire blog post last year to rant about clichés (and rave about George Orwell). You can click here to read it in case you missed it, or re-read it for a refresher. Yay.

Happy New Year!