William Safire — The Fumblerules

portrait of William Safire — The Fumblerules
The original Doubleday book cover (1990)
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A "fumble rule" is a self-referential, self-contradictory rule for writing, or rather a rule for not writing. Originally assembled by William Safire in his "On Language" column in The New York Times (4 November 1979), they also were published in book form as Fumble-Rules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage (1990 & 2002), and reissued as How Not To Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar (2005). These rules appeared as shown here in at least one of those sources, some were slightly modified and some were unchanged in all four. I should note that in some cases the sequence may have been meaningful in the original, the system here enforces alphabetical order. Note that Safire did not say to never observe these rules, rather he felt that a writer should know them well and, on rare occasions, follow them for effect.

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