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Thread: Famous Writers on Writing

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    Philosophaster Climacus's Avatar
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    Famous Writers on Writing

    Let's put together a compendium of writing advice from writers. The writers should be well-known and well-respected. (Not to suggest that lesser-known and less-respected writers are without advice, good and bad.)

    George Orwell:
    • Never use a metaphor, simile, or figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    • Never use a long word when a short one will do.
    • If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.
    • Never use the passive when you can use the active.
    • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


    C.S. Lewis:
    • Be clear, and make sure that your sentences can't be misunderstood.
    • Use plain efficient words rather than long, vague ones. ("Keep promises" rather than "implement promises.")
    • Use concrete nouns rather than abstract nouns. ("More people died" rather than "mortality rose.")
    • Don't rely on adjectives like terrible and wonderful that tell the reader how to feel instead of making him feel that way. Such adjectives say to readers, "Please will you do my job for me."
    • Avoid word inflation; don't use infinitely when you mean very. Save words for when you need them.
    • Write by ear, not by eye.

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    Philosophaster Climacus's Avatar
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    Ernest Hemingway: "Never use slang except in dialogue and then only when unavoidable. Because all slang goes sour in a short time."

    This resonates with me. It's becoming increasingly common to see slangy diction worked into running prose. And I've always found it distasteful and out-of-place. This comes across in dynamic-equivalent translations too. Lewis noted, "A while ago the classics were made to sound like the Authorised Version of the Pre-Raphaelites; now they are to be stark and slangy and ironic."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Climacus View Post
    Let's put together a compendium of writing advice from writers. The writers should be well-known and well-respected. (Not to suggest that lesser-known and less-respected writers are without advice, good and bad.)

    George Orwell:
    • Never use a metaphor, simile, or figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    • Never use a long word when a short one will do.
    • If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.
    • Never use the passive when you can use the active.
    • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


    C.S. Lewis:
    • Be clear, and make sure that your sentences can't be misunderstood.
    • Use plain efficient words rather than long, vague ones. ("Keep promises" rather than "implement promises.")
    • Use concrete nouns rather than abstract nouns. ("More people died" rather than "mortality rose.")
    • Don't rely on adjectives like terrible and wonderful that tell the reader how to feel instead of making him feel that way. Such adjectives say to readers, "Please will you do my job for me."
    • Avoid word inflation; don't use infinitely when you mean very. Save words for when you need them.
    • Write by ear, not by eye.
    In what wing would I be able to learn all these commandments. Near Antonin Artaud?

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    So where does this leave Edward Gibbon?

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