Important Lessons from William Safire

Important Lessons from William Safire

As I was reading about the life of Nixon speech writer William Safire yesterday, I came across this little piece written...

As I was reading about the life of Nixon speech writer William Safire yesterday, I came across this little piece written by Ted Pease with "Today's Word" that I knew I had to show here.

In my time as a journalist there are things I learned that I MUST pay attention to, like spelling and grammar. Lord knows, the younger crop of journalists who are coming up today, don't always even realize that such things exist.  So youngins, here's some advice, from one of the best in the business, William Safire.

Safire offered this useful writing advice.

1. No sentence fragments.

2. It behooves us to avoid archaisms.

3. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.

4. Don't use no double negatives.

5. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, “Resist hyperbole!”

6. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.

7. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

8. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

9. Writing carefully, dangling participles should not be used.

10. Kill all exclamation points!!!

11. Never use a long word with a diminutive one will do.

12. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

13. Take the bull by the hand and don't mix metaphors.

14. Don't verb nouns.

15.  Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

16. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

—William Safire (1929-2009), Pulitzer Prize-winner, wordguy, presidential speechifier and columnist. And curmudgeon.

“Curmudgeon,” Safire said, means, “a likeably irascible old man.”


My name is John Boitnott and I am a tech writer and digital media consultant. I write for, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, USAToday and others. I have held dozens of positions at various TV newsrooms in the state of California. I worked in TV news from 1994 to 2009. I was a web editor for years at KNTV, the NBC station in the San Francisco Bay Area. held freelance writing positions at KGO, KRON and KPIX in San Francisco as well. I worked as a radio anchor, assignment desk manager, reporter, editor and producer at KEYT in Santa Barbara for 10 years.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *