1.) Writing is always and everywhere an act of communication. Behave accordingly.
[a.k.a. the MASTER RULE from which all subsequent rules flow]
2.) While there is an inherent tradeoff between clarity and precision of writing, write with as much clarity as your audience will allow.
Clarity: “The legal pad is yellow.”
Precision: “This particular legal pad, which I hold in my hand, is, when struck with white light, a shade of yellow that is commonly called Maize or, alternatively, #FBEC5D.”
3.) The reader is not an enemy to be conquered:
All else being equal, use the word the reader is most likely to know.
[Note: I used “all else being equal” and not ceteris paribus… even though the latter would have nicely conveyed to readers how much smarter I am than them.]
4.) Pick useless verbiage out of your writing like Bubba roots the pulled pork out of his teeth after a trip to the all-you-can-eat B-B-Q buffet. Or, as Strunk and White said, “Omit needless words.”
5.) Know the difference between rules inviolate (don’t dangle your participles), rules to be bent (sometimes you should end your sentence in a preposition) , and rules created by a pompous gas-bag trying to prove he knew the rules of Latin (split your infinitives regularly and with relish – sorry, “to boldly go” just sounds better than “to go boldly”)
6.) Put quantities into a form comprehensible to the reader.
$700 billion USD is approximately the size of:
a.) the US defense budget
b.) the national income of Poland
7.) Don’t be afraid to be interesting and provocative.