You have to know the rules to break the rules

Write in Ernest is just rules. They are not arbitrary, but they aren't demanding. Think about your audience. Are they reading for fun, or to get something done? Are they trying to learn something, or to nod knowingly at your prose?

Here we explain what the Write in Ernest rules are.

Break the rules if that works for your audience.

Long sentences

Long sentences have 25 or more words.

The Plain English Guide from Oxford University Press suggests that regularly exceeding 40 words makes it hard for readers. Go for an average of 15 to 20 words.

Complex sentences

Complex sentences have 3 commas or just 1 dash, colon, or semicolon.

That's not a lot to make a sentence complex. If you are writing for the web, make sentences even simple. Especially if people want to get something done.

  • split it in 2

  • use bullet points

  • delete words which aren't adding value


"Use adverbs sparingly. And don't use any unnecessary words at all." Charlie Jane Anders write in "Seriously, What's So Bad About Adverbs?"

So Write in Ernest highlights them all. Some of them are needed, some are useful, some are there because you haven't thought of a better verb yet.

As with everything, it's your writing. You choose.

Passive voice

What's wrong with the passive voice?

  • it's long

  • it's impersonal

  • it's evasive

But sometimes the passive is what you need.

  • you don't know who did the action

  • you really want to emphasize the object

  • it shows the real issue

Read Laura Brown's "What's The Big Deal About The Passive Voice?" for examples.

Simple words

Sometimes we utilize words which have easier alternatives.

Sometimes we use words that are easy.

Write in Ernest will highlight common words that have a simple alternative.