Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules



Among all the lists of writing rules and advice, this one ranks high, in my opinion. Simple, yet so important.


  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 * Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”


Some of you might agree with these, some might not. Feel free to add links to additional lists/tips in the comment section below.

Let the discussion begin…


104 thoughts on “Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

    • There was definitely a time when many writers overused it. I don’t notice it anymore, but when I was younger I did. Really though, once you know the rules you can break them!

      PS: Look, two exclamations! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules For Writing | lionspotting

  2. I like a list. It may not always work for me, but he is offering advice that has worked for him and he is a successful author. I can certainly learn from Elmore Leonard. Thanks for the post Brian.


  3. The ten rules of writing are so true, But I’d like to say that your addition of “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” That’s brilliant.
    Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules | Random Thoughts

  5. Exclamation points are the bane of good writing. I work in magazines and we call them slammers! I have banned the team from using them but they occasionally show up in the Editor’s letter.


  6. Thanks for the writing tips, would really take note when the writing bug bites and also thanks for the follow in my little corner of the blogspere. Hope I can keep you interested.


  7. Pingback: Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules | steviawithcream

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