Isabel Allende

Try to open a path through that maze, put a little order in that chaos.

Kinglsey Amis

I always bear the reader in mind, and try to visualize him and watch for any signs of boredom or impatience to flit across his face.

Richard Anderson

Long words slow your reader down.  With short words, your readers will understand your messages faster and more easily.

Nouns are where the information is.  Adjectives are indispensable to speech, but there isn’t one that can replace even the weakest noun.

You should sound like yourself.  The closer your writing is to the way you speak, the more powerful, lively, engaging, and “correct” your writing will be.


There is a time to say nothing, and a time to say something, but there is never a time to say everything.

Anonymous Scottish Saying

Measure twice, cut once.

Jane Austen

Everything nourishes what is strong already.

Lawrence Block

Your opening has to be good — or the rest of the story won’t have a chance because nobody’ll stick around to read it.

Erma Bombeck

If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.

James M. Cain

A novel is something that has to be endured by the writer.  Anybody who can’t go back for the fourteenth and fifteenth revision with freshness and enthusiasm ought to get out of the business.

Albert Camus

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.

Stephen J. Cannell

The secret is not to try to be perfect.  If you try to be perfect, you procrastinate, you go over and over what you wrote, you make no forward motion.  Trying to be perfect doesn’t produce masterpieces, only agony and slow writing.

Winston Churchill

The small words work best and the old small words work best of all.

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever.  Use a pile driver.  Hit the point once.  Then come back and hit it again.  Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.

Charles Darwin

Language is half art, half instinct.

Peter DeVries

When I see a paragraph shrinking under my eyes like a strip of bacon, I know I’m on the right track.

Joan Didion

Grammar is a piano I play by ear.  All I know about grammar is its power.

John Foster Dulles

The mark of a successful organization isn’t whether or not it has problems; it’s whether it has the same problems it had last year.

Duke Ellington

Song title: “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”

Maren Elwood

Never forget that the reader of fiction reads to feel.   He doesn’t read to think and most certainly doesn’t read to be bored.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Anatole France

Word-carpentry is like any other kind of carpentry: you must join your sentences smoothly.

Robert Frost

All the fun’s in how you say a thing.


If any person wishes to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts.

Samuel Goldwyn

Avoid cliches like the plague.

Allan Gurganus

There’s a kind of ear music . . . a rhythmic synchronicity which creates a kind of heartbeat on the page.

Nancy Hale

The more specific you are, the more universal you are.

Lillian Hellman

Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will come out as you first hoped.

Ernest Hemingway

When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters.  A character is a caricature.

Andrew Jackson

It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.

Elmore Leonard

I try to leave out the parts people skip.

Ed McBain

The only true creative aspect of writing is the first draft.  That’s when it’s coming straight from your head and your heart, a direct tapping of the unconscious.  The rest is donkey work.  It is, however, donkey work that must be done . . . you must rewrite.

James Michener

I may be the world’s worst writer, but I’m the world’s best rewriter.

Charles Mingus

Anybody can make the simple complicated.  Creativity is making the complicated simple.

Walker Percy

A good title should be like a good metaphor:  it should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious.


Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Beatrix Potter

The shorter and the plainer, the better.

Marcel Proust

Instead of seeking new landscapes, develop new eyes.

John Ruskin

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way.

William Shakespeare

Mend your speech a little lest you mar your fortunes.


I see but one rule: to be clear.

W. Strunk and E.B. White

A Sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Mark Twain

I never write ‘metropolis’ for seven cents because I can get the same price for ‘city.’  I never write ‘policeman’ because I can get the same money for ‘cop.’

I don’t give a damn for a man who can only spell a word one way.

A powerful agent is the right word.  Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words, the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.

Lao Tzu

When opposites supplement each other, everything is harmonious.

Walt Whitman

The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters is simplicity.

Woodrow Wilson

We should not only master questions, but also act upon them, and act definitely.


Change everything, except your loves.

Every style that is not boring is a good one.

Lin Yutang

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.

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