Sturgis’s Laws

“Sturgis” is me. The “Laws” aren’t Rules That Must Be Obeyed. Gods forbid, we writers and editors have enough of those circling in our heads and ready to pounce at any moment. These laws are more like hypotheses based on my observations over the years. They’re mostly about writing and editing. None of them can be proven, but they do come in handy from time to time.

After a rather long hiatus — three and a half years! — I’m back. I left off at #10 and will shortly resume my commentary with #11. Rather than wait who-knows-how-many years to get the whole list up here, I’ve listed them all below. The links on the first 10 will take you to the applicable post. I’ll add links to the subsequent ones when I post them.

Sturgis’s Law #1:
If you stare at any sentence long enough, it will look wrong.

Corollary: Sturgis’s Law #1a
If you stare at any word long enough, it will look wrong.

Sturgis’s Law #2
Given enough time to fill, even the most intelligent commentator will wind up making stupid statements.

Sturgis’s Law #3
A good sentence is more than the sum of its parts.

Sturgis’s Law #4
“The check’s in the mail,” “I gave at the office,” “All this manuscript needs is a light edit”: Caveat Editor.

Sturgis’s Law #5
Hyphens are responsible for at least 90 percent of all trips to the dictionary. Commas are responsible for at least 90 percent of all trips to the style guide.

Sturgis’s Law #6
Your writing will teach you what you need to know.

Sturgis’s Law #7
It’s hard to see the whole when you’re up too close, and easy to see unity when you’re too far away.

Sturgis’s Law #8

People tend to define problems in a way that lets themselves off the hook.

Sturgis’s Law #9
Guidelines are not godlines.

Sturgis’s Law #10
“Consistent hyphenation” is an oxymoron.

Sturgis’s Law #11
The burden of proof is on the editor.

Sturgis’s Law #12:
If it can be automated, it’s not editing.

Sturgis’s Law #13:
Writers who need thesauruses should not be allowed to use them without supervision.

NOTE: In certain circumstances, the last two words of #13 may be omitted.

Sturgis’s Law #14:
When a word communicates what it’s supposed to communicate to its intended audience, the copyeditor’s job is to get out of the way.

Sturgis’s Law #15:
Fetishism weirds editing.

Sturgis’s Law #16:
The amount of discussion devoted to an issue is inversely proportional to the issue’s importance and to the preparation required to say anything meaningful about it.

Sturgis’s Law #17:
After editing a hot sex scene, always make a second pass. You’ve probably missed a few things.

Sturgis’s Law #18:
Everyone’s the hero of their own story.

Sturgis’s Law #19:
Faith is believing that when you sit down to write, words will appear on the page.

Sturgis’s Law #20
Edit the words in front of you, not their synonyms.

And last but not least:

Typos are Coyote’s footprints in your manuscript.

This isn’t a law because “law” and “Coyote” are pretty much mutually exclusive. As usual, Coyote showed up before the numbering started.


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