23 rules for writers

We’ve all heard of “laws” such as Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong it will go wrong), but how about laws which are especially pertinent for writers? I’ve been doing a spot of research, and have come up with these timeless gems. I’ve included the references in case you wish to delve further into any of them.

Comins’s Law

People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklyn said it first. [Rawson]

Considine’s Law

Whenever one word or letter can change the entire meaning of a sentence, the probability of an error being made will be in direct proportion to the embarrassment it will cause. [Dickson]

Creasey’s Law

Never buy an editor or publisher a lunch or a drink until he has bought an article, story or book from you. [Rawson]

Trillin’s Corollary to Creasey’s Law

The advance for a book should be at least twice as much as the cost of the lunch at which it was discussed. [Rawson]

Faber’s Second Law (also known as The First Law of Historical Research)

The number of errors in any piece of writing rises in proportion to the writer’s reliance on secondary sources. [Dickson]

Felson’s Law

To steal from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research. [Bloch]

See also the Mizner’s law.

Johnson’s Law

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. [QuoteDB]

Mizner’s Law of Research

If you steal from one author it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many it’s research. [Rawson]

Mr Cooper’s Law

If you do not understand a particular word in a piece of technical writing, ignore it. The piece will make perfect sense without it. [Bloch]

Bogovich’s Corollary to Mr Cooper’s Law

If the piece makes no sense without the word, it will make no sense with the word. [Bloch]

Murphy’s Law of Research

Enough research will tend to support your theory. [Bloch]

Murphy’s Law of College Publishing

Availability of manuscripts in a given subject area is inversely proportional to the need for books in that area. [Dickson]

Murphy’s First Law of Photojournalism

No photojournalist is well dressed. [Murphy]

Murphy’s Second Law of Photojournalism

No well-dressed photographer is a photojournalist. [Murphy]

Rubin’s Law of Literature

All writers are neurotic, but not all neurotics are writers. [Rawson]

Senator Sorghum’s Law

When in doubt for an argument, turn to statistics. They sound very wise, and very few people will do the arithmetic necessary to contradict you. [Rawson]

Tillis’ Organisational Principle

If you file it, you’ll know where it is but never need it. If you don’t file it, you’ll need it but never know where it is. [Bloch]

Trollope’s Rule

Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write. [Rawson]

Twain’s Rules for Pleasing Authors

  1. Tell him you have read one of his books.
  2. Tell him you have read all of his books.
  3. Ask him to let you read the manuscript of his forthcoming book.

Weiner’s Law of Libraries

There are no answers, only cross-references. [Bloch]

Wilde’s Law of Hard Work

This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again. [QuotationsBook]

I hope these laws have given you food for thought. Winking




Murphy’s Laws