Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thumb Rules

I'm not a fan of rules, but I do enjoy the folksy alternatives, such as rules of thumb. These are advice, estimates or predictions based on experience or opinion, such as "When the ink on a fountain pen flows more liberally than usual you are likely to have a storm" or "If it rains all summer here we'll have at least two freezes during winter" (one of mine). Rules of thumb range from utterly ridiculous (If you don't want a cat to jump into your lap, don't make eye contact with it) to totally accurate (Cook fish ten minutes per inch of thickness.)

You can imagine how entertained I was when I discovered there's a searchable web site devoted to rules of thumb on just about every subject you can imagine. You simply enter any topical word into the search box, and the site will offer you all the thumby wisdom it has on the subject.

Here are a few zingers about writing:

"If you feel that you need a thesaurus to write something, you are probably trying too hard."

--John Shed, language instructor

"Always figure out who your characters are before you figure out your plot. You can follow a good character through a bad plot, but you can't make a good plot out of a bad character."

--James Erwin, Editor, Des Moines, IA, USA

"If the erasers of your pencils wear out before the graphite, you're too fussy."

--Stephen Unsino, poet, Eastchester, New York

(Thanks to Gerard over at the Presurfer, who led me to the Rules of Thumb site via this helpful post.)

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