Thursday, October 14, 2010

“Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one."

Via PGS contributor Dominique Cimafranca, this article, where some of C.S. Lewis' writing tips are shared. An excerpt:

Lewis was a diligent reader of writing samples submitted to him, both from close friends and from complete strangers. He offered general evaluative remarks, but also comments on specific lines and particular word choices. Sometimes he replied by offering a quick primer on the art of writing. To a little girl from Florida he offered these five principles:

“Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean, and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.”

“Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t say implement promises, but keep them.”

Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘more people died,’ don’t say ‘mortality rose.’

“Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing.” Under this heading, Lewis goes on to say that the writing should delight readers, not just label an event delightful; or it should make them feel terror, not just to learn that an event was terrifying. He says that emotional labeling is really just a way of asking readers, ‘Please, will you do my job for me?’

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