In Search of Excellence

In my previous career as a human resources executive, one of my areas of responsibility was the management of our quality control programs. Phrases such as “Quality First,” “Do it right the first time,” and “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking” (Henry Ford), pervaded our corporate culture.

But corporate America did not invent the concept of working with excellence. God has always required excellence from His people. First Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

How is this related to our writing?

For decades, Christian publishing had a poor reputation. Not because of inappropriate language or scenes, but because the writing was mediocre at best. Christian publishing was long dismissed as the home of writers who couldn’t cut it in the general market. Thankfully, this is no longer true.

Professionals within the Christian publishing industry have worked diligently for many years to raise the standard of excellence in CBA-associated books. The words of D. Elton Trueblood, noted author and former chaplain at both Harvard and Stanford University, resonate with us: “Holy shoddy is still shoddy.”Of course, marketing begins with writing an excellent book. We know God gave His best for us in the sacrifice of His Son. As we exercise our gifts and talents for Him, we also want to give our best as we represent the King of the Universe.

So, in the interests of excellence in writing, I share with you William Safire’s tongue-in-cheek “Rules for Writers,” from How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar. Enjoy!

1) Remember to never split an infinitive.

2) The passive voice should never be used.

3) Do not put statements in the negative form.

4) A verb has to agree with their subjects.

5) Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

6) If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

7) A writer must not shift your point of view.

8) And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

9) Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.

10) Don’t overuse exclamation marks !!!!!!!!!

11) Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their antecedents.

12) Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

13) If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

14) Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

15) Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

16) Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

17) Always pick on the correct idiom.

18) The adverb always follows the verb.

19) Eschew obfuscation.

20) Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

What are your writing “pet peeves”?



Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her latest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.

In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at

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