Excerpts from the style sheet of the Kansas City Star, where Ernest Hemingway worked as a reporter in 1917:
- Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.
- Eliminate every superfluous word, as “Funeral services will be at 2 o’clock Tuesday,” not “The funeral services will be held at the hour of 2 o’clock on Tuesday.” “He said” is better than “He said in the course of conversation.”
- Avoid the use of adjectives, especially such extravagant ones as “splendid,” “gorgeous,” “grand,” “magnificent,” etc.
- Be careful of the word “also.” It usually modifies the word it follows closest. “He, also, went” means “He, too, went.” “He went also” means he went in addition to taking some other action.
- Be careful of the word “only.” “He only had $10” means he alone was the possessor of such wealth; “He had only $10” means the ten was all the cash he possessed.
- A long quotation without introducing the speaker makes a poor lead especially and is bad at any time. Break into the quotation as soon as you can, thus: “‘I should prefer,’ the speaker said, ‘to let the reader know who I am as soon as possible.'”
“Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing,” Hemingway told a reporter in 1940. “I’ve never forgotten them. No man with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the thing he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides with them.”