Elmore Leonard's advice when writing your college essays.
Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are the basics:
1. Never open a book with the weather. If you open an essay with the weather, it better be a paper for a meteorology class. In other words, don't begin with a "It was a dark and stormy night."
2. Avoid prologues. Hmmm, prologues are a wind up to the action. Think of a prologue as your introduction. While an introduction is important you don't want to give too much away (or bore your readers with information that is common knowledge). Tell you reader what your paper is about and then get to it.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue--if you use dialogue. On the other hand letting signal phrases do the work for you when quoting a text is a good idea because they can convey so much information. For example, disagrees and condemns are stronger than said, but when you are writing a dialogue you want the dialogue to convey disagreement or condemnation and "said" doesn't get in the way.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.” In other words, when you interview someone in a paper, don't use "angrily said"--convey anger with the dialogue.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control! PAHlease!!!!! If it's important an exclamation point doesn't convince anyone, your argument does.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” Why and how did something happen? Show your readers, let them feel it.
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. It slows down your reader and gets annoying quick. That's why you need to write with standard English. If your professor is trying to wade through your "pop" dialect--well, don't expect an A.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. If you are interviewing someone, or using personal experience--get on with it.
9. Same for places and things. If you are writing a travelogue that's one thing. If you are writing about a treasured object than you will be writing an extended description. If you are writing an argument essay about litter, keep your descriptions succinct to keep your reader moving along and engaged.
10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip. Think about what you skip as a reader and then avoid writing those parts.
Good writing is just good writing wherever it is found, from a novel to a memo or an email, respect your audience (and yourself) by making all your writing count. Can you think of other techniques that novelists use that you could adopt and adapt in your academic writing?