Proofreading Tips: Fumblerules

Catriona Tippin

It’s the silly season, here’s some grammatical nonsense. 

This list includes some favourites from collections by G Trigg, a science editor, and W Safire, a grammarian (who gave these rules their name). 

Fumblerules are self-explanatory, work out what’s going on with this Top Twenty: 

1. Don’t use no double negatives. 

2. Verbs has to agree with their subjects. 

3. Join clauses and an appropriate conjunction. 

4. About sentence fragments. 

5. Mixed metaphors are a pain in the neck to be weeded out. 

6. You should not use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice. 

7. Don’t use commas, when unnecessary. 

8. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas. 

9. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!! 

10. Its important to check apostrophes and confirm whether each one occupies it’s position correctly. 

11. Eschew obfuscation. 

12. Don’t abbrev. 

13. The passive voice should rarely be employed. 

14. On the subject of repetition, the repetition of a word may be effective repetition or it may be ineffective repetition. 

15. It behooves us all to avoid archaic expressions. 

16. Consult the dictionery to avoid misspellings. 

17. As far as incomplete constructions, they are wrong. 

18. In my opinion, a writer should definitely not get into the somewhat tedious habit of making use of too many superfluous words that are unnecessary in order to put his or her meaning or message across, as it were. 

19. Check to see if you any words out. 

20. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

Catriona Tippin aka @ProofReadingTip will be back next month with more proofreading tips. 

To see previous tips, click on this proofreading link.

Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and helps organise venues for SCBWI North East. Details of her writing and illustrating here. She proofreads study guides, house magazines and publicity material for two national educational charities, in addition to working on a variety of proofreads and copyedits for the growing self-published world. Her monthly column is intended to give you food for thought, remembering “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling or typographical error” (McKean’s Law, named after its inventor Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary). 


  1. This is great Catriona! I have literally just finished the final spell/grammar check of my book before it goes to the printers and I recognise a few of these points! I wish I had this a week ago :-) Thanks for giving me a smile too!

  2. It must have been tough stopping yourself from editing this.

  3. Thanks all, and yes, tough to avoid editing. Discovered I itched most to correct the apostrophes and the spelling. Whereas sentence fragments?

  4. ...and I mean apostrophe's and speling...

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  7. Doing an online grammar check proves to be more practical is some ways than installing a software for checking grammar. Aside from the fact that some software for checking grammar are not freeware or paid programs, some of it are also not user friendly. Also, some people chose to do online grammar check than getting the software and install it because some of the software has bugs in it and do not actually work very well. See more free punctuation checker


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