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  • Writer's pictureJim Leonardo

Welcome and some tips on writing.

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


I am starting this new site because I'm getting more serious (aka, more regular) about writing and wanted to separate my fiction (here) from my non-fiction (

To kick off the blog, here is a partial repost of an article I wrote for Jim's Rules:

I am working on improving my writing ability, so I’m trying to spend at least an hour writing each day. I am also doing more reading and that includes reading books about writing. These are the books have helped me the most so far:

  1. Stephen King: On Writing, Scribner; Reissue edition (June 2, 2020) - Practical advice aimed at aspiring fiction writers, but helpful for everyone. He includes quite a bit of autobiography to help us understand his writing style and, I believe, provide examples of how to write. It’s a great read, but it’s not for everyone. His life isn’t all rosy and includes abuse by a baby-sitter, his own substance abuse, and gruesome details about when he was hit by a van while walking.

  2. Strunk & White: The Elements of Style, Pearson; 4th edition (July 23, 1999) - Short and to the point. This is about 100 pages of practical writing advice focused on the basics of grammar and punctuation. This is the little book to take with you as it will fit in a large jeans pocket or purse.

  3. The University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff: The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press; Seventeenth edition (September 5, 2017) - CMOS is long, exhaustive, and formal. If you want almost 20 pages of proper comma use, this is the book for you. It also covers topics like creating a table of contents, a bibliography, an index, and more. If you’re writing blogs and fiction, this is probably too much to start with: get Strunk & White and maybe supplement that with one of the CMOS’s cheat sheets that are available. CMOS, or one of its abridgements, is more likely to be up your alley if you are writing a doctoral thesis or self-publishing non-fiction. It’s also a good choice for those of us who like to just know the “write” answer and thrive on esoterica.

There isn’t a single legal definition for grammar and punctuation in American English, so there are other styles guides, such as the AP Stylebook, that take slightly different positions on some topics (e.g., CMOS and S&W recommend the serial comma whereas others prefer to omit it if they think usage is clear). I like CMOS because most of my writing education came from writing papers for science classes in college, but the AP guide may be more to your liking. The only real rule I’ve come across, and King agrees, is that “you are allowed to break the rules as long as you know the rules.” I won’t use that rule in formal academic or technical writing, though. If you’re going to be graded, stick to the rules.

This is, so what are some of my own rules on writing?

  1. You can break the rules if it serves a purpose.

  2. When in doubt, look it up.

  3. Use the serial comma by default and be wary of anytime you have commas in a sentence with an “and” or an “or” in a position that could make up a list. Some people don’t like it, but I prefer clarity. Strunk & White made this rule #2.

  4. Limit, but do not eliminate, the amount of “sentence twisting” you do with commas. I prefer this: You will reduce confusion if you do not twist sentences. over this: If you do not twist sentences, you will reduce confusion.

  5. Go ahead and use spellcheck all the time. If you do use grammar check, only turn it on at the end. Grammar checks interrupt the writer’s train of thought and tend to destroy their “voice”.

originally posted at

As I mentioned at the beginning of that quote, I am trying to find an hour a day to write. I am succeeding a good chunk of the time now that I'm including more than just non-fiction on Jim's Rules. That hour does not include what I do at my day job: writing about apps you are building or will be building doesn't count! That one hour includes time spent on blog articles and work that I'm hoping to publish via traditional outlets. I just submitted my first short story to a sci-fi magazine last night, so I expect my first rejection in two to six weeks.

With limited time in a day, that hour will all too often include time spent on supporting activity like sketching a map or jotting down notes about an idea. It also includes every author's favorite activity: editing.

Where a work is not intended for publication, I expect to include notes and maps on this site if they are not too ugly.

Again, welcome, and I hope you enjoy what you find here.

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