Good English is not something you are born with; good English can only be acquired when you have learnt the hard and fast rules that govern it.
For those of you who occasionally have to write in English, and sense that the recipients of your labours are laughing at you; here are the 21 golden rules:
1 Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
2 Never use similes, and avoid clichés like the plague; they’re old hat.
3 Avoid etc, if you have something to add, add it; if not, finish your sentence.
4 Hash tags & ampersands are ugly; don’t use them, even if your Twitter starts to bully you.
5 Strive to boldly go where no writer has gone before, but split an infinitive at your peril.
6 Don’t use contractions, even those that give a certain realism to dialogue and aren’t intrusive.
7 Parenthetical notes (however relevant they may seem to be at the time) are intrusive and completely (in the fullest sense of the word) unnecessary.
8 Never generalize; nobody likes it and nobody has ever said anything interesting in that manner.
9 Name-dropping is almost as feeble as the use of quotations; wasn’t it indeed Ralph Waldo Emerson himself who averred: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know!”
10 Don’t be redundant; avoid the use of superfluous, unnecessary, otiose, excrescent language. Talent is more than just the ability to open Roget’s Thesaurus at the right page.
11 The passive voice should be avoided at all times, unless you are writing for a newspaper or protecting your sources, whether they exist or not.
12 Rhetorical questions only show weakness and a lack of narrative style. Who needs them?
13 A preposition is positively the last thing you should end a sentence with.
14 In as far as it’s possible, and providing the structure of a scene permits it, always, within reason, get to the point as soon as (and I cannot emphasise this enough) possible.
15 Always acknowledge all authors whose work you have or have not used as inspiration. Derivation is not a crime; after all, no man is an island; not even Ibiza. And avoid alliteration. Start each new point with a new paragraph.
16 Say exactly what you mean; a writer needs analogies like a fish needs a bicycle.
17 Refrain from utilising vocabulary of Latin origin when Germanic alternatives exist.
18 Don’t show off your extensive vocabulary by using words that your readers cannot be expected to know; unless you have shares in a dictionary publishing company. Coxcombry is unattractive in a writer.
19 Keep all aphorisms short and to the point, and never exaggerate, even if the sky should open and the earth split apart at your feet.
20 Whenever you begin a sentence, be clear in your mind, in as far as it doesn’t inhibit your creativity or annul the workings of the muse, who works in mysterious ways and is as unpredictable as she is impossible to pin down, whatever exterior conditions are prevailing at any given moment in time or space.
21 Always leave your readers with a good feeling when they finish what you’ve written; even if death is inevitable.