September 13, 2013
Hello, class. It’s time for the third installation of your trip through Vincent’s Famous Columnist School. I hope you are making the most of this opportunity. For some, that means diving right into this journalistic journey; for others, it means taking a nap.
Now, if you were paying attention last week when I presented Lesson No. 2 — which deftly explained exactly how YOU can craft your very own novel — you know that I promised to give you Vincent’s 21 Rules for Perfect Prose.
And I will, too.
Just not yet.
First, something much more important streaked across my mind the other day, and I felt it necessary to chase it down, haul it back and offer it to you — as a bonus, you might say.
This item comes straight out of Vincent’s Book of Journalism, which was recently published (OK, self-published … and the reasons are not important), and it came to mind because, now that you’ve learned how to write your very own novel, it occurred to me that you might … MIGHT! … suffer the consequences of being second-guessed.
Things like your characters, your plot, your structure — well, everything, really — could be called into question by those who consider themselves experts and are only looking at your work as a means to making money. This could explain all those rejection letters.
But, there are three mandatory Latin-type phrases from which you must choose carefully each time your work is, um, disrespected. I will include the English translations so you won’t have to furrow your brow or wrinkle your face. They are:
— Ita quando hic adueni (It was that way when I got here).
— Credo nonnulus hic morteous esse (I believe several of the people here are dead already).
— Reportus stinkulus (News is what’s left when reporters are done removing the interesting stuff).
There, now you have a number of justifiable retorts available. Use them wisely, because offering up the wrong one could have ripple effects within the industry for years to come. And also … never, NEVER say where you got these retorts. Ever.
OK, moving on.
It’s now time for the meat of Lesson No. 3 — Vincent’s 21 Rules for Perfect Prose, deviously lifted from the wall of a distant co-worker in Monroe, Ga., many, many columns ago.
Let’s get started.
1) Subject and verb must agree.
2) Do not use a foreign term when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
3) It behooves a writer worth his or her salt to avoid archaic expressions.
4) Do not use hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
5) Avoid cliches like the plague.
6) Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck and should be thrown out the window.
7) Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
8) Parenthetical words however must be enclosed with a comma.
9) Consult a dictoinary to avoid missspellings. Or at least use spelllcheck.
10) Don’t be redundant.
11) Do not repeat yourself, and especially do not say what you have said before.
12) Remember to never split an infinitive.
13) The passive voice shall not be used.
14) Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
15) Don’t use no double negatives.
16) Proofread carefully to see if you have any words out.
17) Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
18) Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
19) Avoid colloquial stuff.
20) No sentence fragments.
21) Remember to always finish what you
There you have it, class. Nifty stuff, huh?
Well, sad to say, there are only a couple more classes to go. Then you will be turned loose into the world as graduates of Vincent’s Famous Columnist School. There will be a tear of proudness in my eye at that very moment.
What’s that, you say? We haven’t even mentioned anything about writing columns yet? Well, well well … that technically may be true, but as someone who is attempting to learn from someone far more wiser and experienced, you should always keep one very important nugget on the tip of your tongue: You get what you pay for.
Ha-ha, only kidding.
We will get to the namesake of this school in good time. Until then, I must inform you that I have been notified of a teacher work day next week that will require us to forego classes. Therefore, in this space next week will be a pitch from me for new class members.
Call this time your Indian Summer Break, Pre-Columbus Day Off or whatever. We will pick things up the following week — but during this free time, I hope that you will review what’s been presented and be prepared for that possible quiz later.
— W. Curt Vincent is the general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.