Alt Writing-Guidelines

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One of the coolest things that can happen to you on h2g2 is to get one of your Guide Entries picked for seclusion in AGG/GAG. But what is it that makes an entry go unEdited? What can you do to increase your chances of getting spotlighted in our column of the h2g2 post?

First, take a look at the Writing-Guidelines for the Edited Guide, so you know the kinds of things we're not worried about. Let the intentional limitations of the Edited Guide1 fall behind you, and consider all the styles and tones and techniques that are available to you.

Each of the numbers below lists a rule from the Writing-Guidelines, followed by our directions on how or why to disregard them. Heeding these suggestions won't get you into the Edited Guide, but it might help you write something interesting. It might even get your work featured in Agg/GAG . smiley -

How to Write Great unGuided Entries

1. "Write about reality."

AGG/GAG says: Don't limit yourself to reality.

2. "Be original."
3. "Fill in the gaps."

On the other hand, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)

If you can think of a topic, you can be sure that someone else already has thought about it and probably submitted it last week. Don't waste your time worrying about what territory has been covered by others, because none of them have covered it in quite the unique way that you will cover it. There might be a guide entry about JRR Tolkein, but has anyone offered a Maoist or Existentialist interpretation of Farmer Giles? Both at the same time? Even if a topic has been touched on in the Edited Guide, you can always cover the details that were missed, or a perspective that is not covered in the Edited Guide. Especially if you disagree with an entry in the Edited Guide.

4. "Be Instructive, Informative and Factual."

It is quite possible to be instructive without being factual, factual without being informative, and sometimes you can have more fun disregarding all three of those. If you can write a good piece without being instructive, informative or factual, then lay it on us.

5. "Don't try too hard to be funny."

This is more a truism of beginner's humor writing than a unique guideline for the Edited Guide. Those unskilled with humor will always stretch it, bobble it, warp it, until their heavy-handed attempts at humor explode in their faces, or just fizzle, in much the same way that this sentence has.

Try to be funny as hard as you want, but don't spread it around until you succeed.

6. "Write in your own style."

Write in somebody else's style if you think you can pull it off.

7. "Write about what you know."
8. "Research your entry thoroughly."

If you don't want to write about what you know, just be sure to research your entry thoroughly. Unless it turns out funnier to make things up, in which case you should shun research like you shun sunlight and crosses and holy water.

9. "Try to be well-balanced."

Let me tell you about a little thing called "post-structuralism," which teaches us that objectivity is a myth. Never mind. It's all well and good for the Edited Guide to stay neutral on matters of debate, but don't hold back your opinion just because of us. Try to be unbalanced.

10. "Plan your entry."

Here's why some of the works of James Joyce and William S. Burroughs would not fit into the Edited Guide, yet still find their way into discussions of great writing. If you feel that planning won't help your entry, then throw caution to the wind. Put on a blindfold, spin around a dozen times, and run your entry in whatever wobbling direction results.

11. "It almost goes without saying, but..."

This rule of the Writing Guidelines reminds us to use correct spelling and grammar. It does so by using a sentence fragment for a subheader, demonstrating that technically accurate grammar is not always the best way to get your message across, and rarely reflects modern grammar spoken by average people. People constantly talk in sentence fragments. There are some antiquated rules of grammar up with which you should not put2. This "guideline" is important for struggling writers who are not yet able to deal with the nuances of intentionally distorted or fragged grammar. Like Picasso breaking the rules of visual art, you must know the rules of language intimately before you are ready to artfully break them. When spelling, grammar or the English language do not help your entry, leave them in your dust.

12. "Do not copy from other sources."
Agreed. This is the only one that we totally agree with, no quibbling whatsoever. Not only is it illegal to plagiarize, it basically means that you're lying to everyone (even us!) when you take credit for someone else's work. You can lie in your writing if it makes for a better story, but don't lie about your writing. At that point it would become Performance Art, and we'll have none of that.

13. "Write in the third person."

AGG/GAG says: Write in the third person. Or the first person. Or the second person passive subjunctive. You could even try writing in the First Person Omniscient, which is normally reserved for Another. For our purposes, you should write in any perspective you can pull off.

Our leader, jwf

Actual Guidelines

For AGG/GAG, we don't want plagiarized material, boring material, or material that you're going to submit to the Edited Guide. Anything else you can write within those limits should be fair game.

1I'm not trying to argue that the Edited Guide should broaden its scope to include fiction and every zany thing we can imagine. There is a purpose behind the Guide's chosen scope, and we respect that. But it would be sad if this great talent pool of writers at h2g2 stopped writing anything outside the scope of the Edited Guide.2My English teacher in 11th grade said that the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition is an outdated rule "up with which you should not put." She may have been quoting Churchill or somebody.

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