Link to my MS Sway document where I originally wrote this is: https://sway.com/QRGKIevU1kDPujAb (Note: it is the rough draft)
Writing Mayberry Style with the Andy Griffith Show
All you ever need to know about writing style you can learn from the good folks of Mayberry, North Carolina.
Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee
Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor
Ron (Ronnie) Howard as Opie Taylor
Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle
Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife (Barn)
Elinor Donahue as Andy's girlfriend Ellie Walker
Even in small-town USA, people think learning how to write is hard. That's why the dedicated and dauntless Deputy Barney Fife decided to help everyone out by teaching them just exactly what they should and shouldn't do when they are writing.
After all, he is indispensable to his boss, Sheriff Andy Taylor, who couldn't do his job without his trusty sidekick. And his cousin Andy has that boy to raise with no mother, only the help of the wonderful Aunt Bee.
Barney's going to show you exactly what good writing is and the rest of the cast of The Andy Griffith Show helps him out in this indispensable guide to writing with style and clarity. I have turned to the simple wisdom in this manual many times to improve my writing. I know you will find it just as helpful in making your writing clear and expressing your thoughts perfectly.
~ Floyd Driskol, Mayberry Barber
Now, one thing writers do wrong a lot is how they use an apostrophe. You see, it isn't hard if you think about it, but so many people just don't think. I'm here to tell you that you need to think when you're writin’.
For example, what if you was havin' a conversation like the one you see below:
[Aunt Bee hit Briscoe with a spoon]
Briscoe Darling: "Ow! What'd you do that for?"
Aunt Bee Taylor: "No elbows on the table."
Briscoe Darling: [turns to Andy] "That ain't fair, her hittin' first and explainin' the rules after."
These sentences have contractions that need apostrophes where the missing letters are. Here’s another one.
Andy Taylor: "Opie! Time to come in, son."
Opie Taylor: "Aw Pa, just a little while longer... please?"
Andy Taylor: "Well, OK.” [turns to Barney] “Daylight's precious when you're a youngen'."
In the last sentence here, there’s three contractions that need apostrophes for the missing letters: “Daylight’s” means “daylight is” and “you’re” means “you are,” and “youngen’” needs an apostrophe for the missing “g”. Ya’ need to make sure there’s an apostrophe in those contractions so people can understand your writin’, sure, but there's other uses for them that people mix up all the time. That's when there's more than one of something, called plural, or if something they are writing about belongs to someone, called possessive – you know, because it's something you have.
RULE: When you have a singular noun, you just add “ 's “ to form the possessive (Elements 1).
Here's some examples:
Opie’s teacher is dating his father. (Needs an apostrophe because the teacher belongs to Opie.)
How many teachers does Opie have? (Doesn’t need an apostrophe because it’s just more than one teacher; there is no object that belongs to the teachers.)
Floyd’s barber shop is the only place in town to get a haircut. (The barber shop belongs to Floyd so it’s a possessive “S” and needs an apostrophe.)
How many Floyds are there in Mayberry? (This sentence is talking about multiple Floyds so that is a plural and there shouldn’t be an apostrophe.)
Here’s a little trick you can use so you can tell if the word is a possessive. Just ask yourself: Does it belong to Opie? Does it belong to Floyd? Look at whatever the subject of your sentence is. If it's sayin’ the item belongs to the person the sentence is about, then it's possessive -- kinda’ like Thelma Lou is about me -- and needs an apostrophe. Here’s some more correct examples:
Andy Taylor is Opie's father.
Barney Fife is Mayberry's best Deputy.
See how the father belongs to Opie in the first sentence and Mayberry has the best deputy in the second one? I knew you’d get it!
The second rule I'm gonna' teach you is just as important. It has to do with commas, something people have just as hard a time with as apostrophes. The type of comma I'm talking about is the "serial" comma, where you have a list of three or more items and only one conjunction holding them together.
RULE: Use a comma after each term except the last in a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction (Elements 2).
Here's some good examples:
Barney Fife: "Well, I guess to sum it up you could say there's three reasons why there's so little crime in Mayberry. There's Andy, there's me, and baby makes three." [patting his gun]
Mayberry is as American as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolets.
Now, people frequently leave out that last comma, the one before “and,” but I’m here to tell ya’, that’s just not correct. People who know their business know there should be a comma there and when they read something that doesn’t have it, it interrupts the flow of their reading and makes it confusin’. Here’s an example. Read it aloud and you’ll see I’m right.
Opie’s favorite things to do are fishin’, ridin’ his bike and learnin’ sheriffin’ from the town deputy.
See that? "Shazam!" Without the comma before “and learnin’,” you thought the “and” went with “bike,” didn’t ya’? Puttin’ the comma before “and” makes it clear that the next thing listed is a separate item from the one before the “and.”
I think you're gettin' the idea. Now, sometimes when you write, you want to show that there's a break or interruption in the text, and sometimes you want to give an example in the middle of what you're writin'. That's called an appositive, though I don't know why since it's not always positive.
RULE: Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary (Elements 9).
Here's some examples:
[After Gomer made a citizen's arrest on Barney]
Andy Taylor: "All right, what's goin' on here?"
Barney Fife: "Aw, this boob here –"
Gomer Pyle: "Boob? Why that's an insult in the face of the public!"
[after learning Barney has spilled the beans about a gold shipment coming through town]
Andy Taylor: "Somewhere between here and Denver is seven million dollars headed for Mayberry, and you, me, Gomer, and Laura Lee Hobbs – we're gonna' receive it."
Andy Taylor: "Let her go off somewhere else – gig some other frog."
Barney Fife: You know, the Sheriff in Mayberry – he's my cousin – is Andy Taylor.
You see how that works? Pretty slick, ain't it? "Yeah, boy."
One thing that bothers me is when people aren't specific. Know what I mean? How is a man supposed to know what you're talking about unless you explain it to him? A man needs to say what he means instead of hidin' it behind a bunch of fancy words.
Take the followin’ examples:
In this example, I wasn't clear enough for Briscoe to understand, see.
Barney Fife: [about Briscoe's decision not to kill Ernest T] "It's a wise man who knows not to push the limits of the law."
Briscoe Darling: [to Andy] "He arguin' with me?"
Andy Taylor: "No; he's agreein' with you."
Briscoe Darling: "Just so I know where I stand."
In this example, Andy wasn't clear enough for me.
Andy Taylor: "Hey, Barn, what if they was to ask you if you could sing a cappella; what would you do?"
Barney Fife: "Why, I'd do it! [snapping fingers in rhythm] 'A cappella, a cappella' – well, I don't remember all the words."
Both of these examples show how you can save a lot of time and energy if you just say what ya' mean and mean what ya' say the first time. Clear as mud; right? "Yeah, boy."
RULE: Use definite, specific, concrete language (Elements 21).
Here's some examples of how to do that:
Instead of saying
"It's a wise man who knows not to push the limits of the law"
like I did in the example, I could have saved Briscoe and Andy's time if I had just said:
Your decision to not even bend the law shows what a wise man you are, Briscoe.
Aunt Bee, I appreciate how this here dinner you made is so unusual.
This isn’t really clear 'cause ”appreciate” and “unusual” could mean almost anything. Why, I can’t even tell if that’s a compliment or an insult, it’s so vague.
To be clearer they could say this instead:
Aunt Bee, I’ve never had such a good dinner that’s so unique.
See how you can tell their meaning? It’s obviously a compliment. And ‘sides, if it is an insult, you should just keep it to yourself. I’ll talk more about bein’ positive later.
Many folks have a hard time with this rule 'cause they like talkin' 'bout theirselves. That's why there's this rule.
RULE: Do not personalize your prose; simply make it good and keep it clean. (Elements 56; Style 40).
Ernest T. Bass: "I'm a little mean, but I make up for it by bein' real healthy." OR
I'm gonna' write a book about all the rules people should follow in their writing.
See there how Ernie was talkin’ ‘bout hisself and how I wrote about my own writin’? Why, that's a big no-no in the writin' world. Unless, 'o course, you're an expert; then it's okay. But since I'm not writin' 'bout research or anythin', it would be better to write it like this:
This book is about all the rules people should follow in their writing.
This next subject here's one that's near and dear to my heart. I'm talkin' 'bout being active in your writing, not passive. There's too many people who don't un'erstand the differ'nce so I'm gonna' teach it to ya’.
Writin' with an active voice means you're speakin’ directly and keeping it short 'n sweet. The person you're talkin' about is doin' the work in the sentence. That's how ya' write a vigorous sentence.
RULE: Use the active voice (Elements 18, Style 37).
Here's some examples of passive, sissy sentences:
"To the nuts and bolts of grammar he added a rhetorical dimension." ~ Afterword by Charles Osgood (Elements 87)
He added a rhetorical dimension to the nuts and bolts of grammar.
My first visit to Raleigh will always be remembered by me.
I will always remember my first trip to Raleigh.
See how weak those first passive sentences are? Show us your writin' muscles and revise those slackers like I did.
You’re catchin’ on, I tell ya’.
Another writing tactic writers should use regularly is to put the words in the proper order. Now, there are exceptions, but most of the time that means that new information should come at the end of a sentence. Here's an example:
See how he emphasized "picnic" in these sentences? Writers with the urge to do it different should just "nip it in the bud."
RULE: Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end (Elements 32; Style 68).
Here's some more examples:
Instead of saying:
This gun is mostly used for keeping the peace because of my reputation as a crack shot.
I could say it better like this:
Because of my reputation as a crack shot, this gun is mostly used for keeping the peace.
Saying it the second way lays the groundwork for me to tell them how carrying a gun helps keep the peace, my goal for the rest of the discussion.
Here’s another example. Instead of saying:
Mayberry has hardly advanced in population in the last five years, but it has advanced in many other ways.
I could say it better like this:
Over the last five years, Mayberry has advanced in many ways, but it has hardly advanced in population.
See how the second sentence puts the slow advance in population at the end, making it the emphatic part that will be talked about more later? By makin' it the end of this sentence, I'm settin' up my next sentences about the population.
Good. You're gettin' it.
Ever'body hates a whiner. Don't ya' notice that? People hate bein' around a sad sack who's always attendin' a pity party of one person – hisself.
But that's not the kind of positive I'm talkin' about here, don't ya' know. I'm talkin' about how you phrase your sentences when you write.
Why, if you go down to the Army recruitin' office in Raleigh, you'll see what I mean. Those recruiters will ask ya' questions. Their goal is to sell ya' on how great the army is. D'you think they'll be askin' ya' questions where the answers are "no"? Of course not. They’ll ask ya’ questions that they know the answer is "yes" because they want to get you in a positive frame of mind.
When you speak positively it shows how strong y'are, that you're a stand-up sort of person. People don't like wishy-washy folks that are afraid to make a commitment; they want ya' to assert yourself.
RULE: Put statements in positive form. Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language (Elements 19; Style 130).
Here are some examples of what I'm talkin' about:
Ernest T. Bass: "I don't chew my cabbage twice. And you ain't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass!"
What Ernie should have said is:
I chew my cabbage once. And you will hear from Ernest T. Bass again.
Barney Fife: "Listen here, Ernest T. Bass! This is Deputy Fife! I'm armed and if you don't go home, I might just take a shot at you.” [another rock come flying through the window] “Stop that!” [Another rock hits the window]
See? Ernie just kept throwin' rocks through the window 'cause I wasn't positive when I talked to him. What I should have said is somethin' like this:
Ernie, this is Deputy Barney Fife. You should go home so I can leave my gun in its holster.
I bet if I had talked to him like that, he'd 'a done what I asked him. And maybe he would’a talked ‘bout somethin’ besides his vegetables.
Writers have an obligation to do their best job. Their work has influence over untold numbers of people who read it. Why, I dare say they create meanin' in the world for the rest of us. Deputy Barney Fife did a great service for Mayberry when he wrote this little book. The editors hope you learn from his great wisdom and take the advice to heart in your writing career.
~ Marianne Frontino McCreight, Publisher
Strunk, Jr., William, and White, E.B. The Elements of Style, 4th Ed. Allyn & Bacon, 2000.
Williams, Joseph M. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. The University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Quotes from the show obtained from Internet Movie Database
Cast photos and info from tv.com
Other photos obtained from following sources:
The Andy Griffith Show IMDb page