I didn’t know it until a year ago, but I’ve been a writing nerd all my life.
I wrote (and illustrated) my own mysteries in fourth grade, started journaling in fifth, tried out prose in seventh, began my memoir in ninth, declared public relations as my major freshman year of college, started a blog junior year, then was hired as a copywriter as a senior.
Therefore, I feel I have expertise to offer in terms of good writing, and somewhat entitled to rant about my 3 biggest pet peeves when people’s fingers start hitting the keyboard.
1. Passive voice. I mention this in my bio, but passive voice drives me batty. Make your subject do something. A sharp creative writing professor taught me how to eliminate passive voice with zombies. If you can add “by zombies” to the end of your sentence and have it make sense, it is so passive that the zombies will devour it and spit out the period.
Passive voice: It cannot be done….by zombies.
Active voice: He/she/they/one cannot do it. Zombie proof.
2. Cliches. “Run like the wind,” “dead as a doornail,” “pedal to the medal,” “avoid like the plague” and “clear as day” are all examples of phrases society has overused and beat into a bloody pulp. Cliches dull your writing because it makes your sentences unoriginal. Part of the reason I hate cliches is, somehow, they always sneak into my writing when I least expect it (see? Cliche). Coming up with fresh metaphors is difficult, but worth it.
3. Ending sentences with prepositions. Remember the preposition songs our third grade teachers taught us? Clearly not, because prepositions are put in all the wrong places (by zombies. Just testing you). To be honest, I’m not sure the rationale behind prepositions at the end of a sentence, but I am sure that I hate it.
Wrong: This is what dreams are made of (sorry, Lizzie McGuire).
Tell me the components of the dream.
Correct: Dreams are made of...you and I? Water and salt? Word choice and grammar?
I won’t actually throw a dictionary at you if you use passive voice, cliches, or end sentences with prepositions. However, your boss or a disgruntled journalist just might, and as a concerned fellow copywriter and publicist, I only have your best interest at heart (cliche; dang it).