How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writing Good

As long as I can remember, I've been collecting and writing grammar rules that break themselves. It started with a print production manager named Bert who told me, “The passive voice is to be avoided.”

I saw its potential, and the list kept growing. In the mid 1980's, when I was working in New York ad agencies, I decided to send my list, which I facetiously called “How to Write Good, ” to Writer's Digest. They bought it, and published it in the issue pictured here.

After it was published, the magazine received a request from an instructor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, asking permission to use it in his class. They forwarded the request to me, and I wrote back, saying he could use it as long as I received credit.

I since discovered that somehow, that list -- usually with my name attached -- made it to the internet, and it s been circulating ever since. It has even earned top billing (over William Safire, no less) on a United States government website that gives examples of humor in writing. Some people add to it, some remove my name and replace it with theirs, but this is how it started. Here is the original piece, as published in Writer s Digest, and copyrighted by me.


by Frank L. Visco

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

  1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.

  2. Propositions are not sentences to end sentences with.

  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

  4. Employ the vernacular.

  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

  8. Contractions aren't necessary.

  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

  10. One should never generalize.

  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations Tell me what you know.”

  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

  13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

  14. Profanity sucks.

  15. Be more or less specific.

  16. Understatement is always best.

  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

  18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

  19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

  20. The passive voice is to be avoided.

  21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

  22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

  23. Who needs rhetorical questions?

I later hired a wonderful designer to create posters, mousepads, a line of clothing and other items to sell online in my write good shop – which also included rules from a follow-up piece that the magazine also bought and ran, called, of course, “How to Write Gooder.”

It hasn't made me rich.

Next time: Ads you never saw, but should have.

No comments:

Post a Comment