Quotations About Writing and Editing

I’ve been collecting quotations about writing and writers, editing and editors, wording and words for decades. Here are just some of my favorites.

Everyone needs an editor. ~ Tim Foote

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain

The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. ~ August Wilson

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. ~ Orson Scott Card

A metaphor is like a simile. ~ Author Unknown

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~ Mark Twain

There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers. ~ H. L. Mencken

Many writers profess great exactness in punctuation who never yet made a point. ~ George Dennison Prentice

I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. ~ Steve Martin

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. ~ Often attributed to Richard Bach, who denies having written/said this. Thanks to http://www.proswrite.com for correcting my mistake.

One gains universal applause who mingles the useful with the agreeable, at once delighting and instructing the reader. ~ Horace

If you can’t annoy somebody, there is little point in writing. ~ Kingsley Amis

There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together. ~ Josh Billings

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~ Thomas Jefferson.

Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~ Baltasar Gracian

The first draft of anything is shit. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Rereading reveals rubbish and redundance. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

Always avoid alliteration. ~ Author Unknown

The time to begin an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say. ~ Mark Twain

Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too. ~  Blake Morrison

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. ~ John Ruskin

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~  Gene Fowler

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~  Joseph Heller

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~  Arthur Plotnik

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason. ~ Richard C. Trench

If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know? ~ Steve Wright

You become a good writer just as you become a good joiner: by planing down your sentences. ~  Anatole France

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~ Author Unknown

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener

Rewriting ripens what you’ve written. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend. ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~ Elmore Leonard

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. ~ Samuel Johnson

Our admiration of fine writing will always be in proportion to its real difficulty and its apparent ease. ~ Charles Caleb Colton

Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs. ~  John Osborne

Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators. ~ Albert Camus

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. ~ T. S. Eliot

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~ Thomas Mann

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~ Robert Benchley

I write to teach myself what I already know. ~ Duane Alan Hahn

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research. ~ Wilson Mizner

For I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me. ~ Winnie the Pooh

Pithy sentences are like sharp nails driving truth into our memory. ~ Diderot

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Never be so brief as to become obscure. ~ Tryon Edwards

There is no artifice as good and desirable as simplicity. ~ St. Francis de Sales

As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out. ~ Mark Twain

I do not like to write — I like to have written. ~ Gloria Steinem

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~ Robert Southey


42 Responses to “Quotations About Writing and Editing”

  1. Simon Bate Says:

    Hey Laura, that’s a nice collection of quotes on writing. Thanks.

  2. Fran Says:

    Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~ Author Unknown

    the author is Dave Barry

  3. jurgen habermas Says:

    Remember that even grammar has a bias.

    –Albert Einstein

  4. almarose Says:

    Re “proofread carefully…” above — I first saw that “instruction” 30 years ago in a book by William Safire….
    1 – Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
    2 – Don’t use no double negative.
    3 – Make each pronoun agree with their antecedent.
    4 – About them sentence fragments.
    5 – When dangling, watch your participles.
    6 – Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
    7 – Just between you and I, case is important too.
    8 – Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
    9 – Its important to use your apostrophe’s correctly.
    10 – Proofread your writing to see if you any words out.
    11 – Correct spelling is esential.

  5. payday loans calgary Says:

    I should say that terriblywrite.wordpress.com has lots of interesting information. Looks like the author did a good job. I will be coming back to terriblywrite.wordpress.com for new information. Thank you.

  6. anachronistica Says:

    For some reason, the Mark Twain quotes always seem to me the most relevant and amusing. Thanks for the collection, I think this is going into my favorites list.


    ^ That’s my usual Writing Quote reference, which is not mine, but which I tend to visit at least once a month and which I post for the elucidation of other readers.

  7. geri caruso Says:

    I was looking for “gramma” blogs and found yours. I guess Google is worth something after all.

  8. Theresa Henige Oland Says:

    Hi, Laura —
    Great blog. Typos and misspellings are proliferating in our society. This should be required reading for all bloggers. I especially like your quotes.

  9. Laura Says:

    You’re right about the increase in typos and misspellings. But I think there’s also an increase in grammatical errors as well as other sloppy mistakes. The fact that these thousands of errors are made by professional writers and editors working for one of the largest Internet companies in the world is appalling to me. I can’t think of a single excuse for the quality of writing Yahoo perpetrates every day on the public.

  10. Red River Rising Says:

    This is fabulous collection of quotations. Thanks!

  11. PollyAnna Says:

    Thanks for these. This is a great resource for my English class!

  12. windows Says:

    I like the valuable information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  13. rtyecript Says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

  14. pros write Says:

    I enjoyed the quotes, Laura. Richard Bach says he can’t take credit for “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” See http://richardbach.com/famous-quotes-i-didnt-write/. Oh . . . and I should probably point out that his last name is misspelled above 😦

    • Laura Says:

      Yikes! Thanks for pointing out my typo; I’ve corrected the spelling of Richard Bach’s name. I’ve also added a little information about the alleged source of the quotation and a hat-tip to Pros Write. I rely on my readers to catch my mistakes, which I hope are relatively rare (at least compared to those made by Yahoo staffers). Just goes to show you — everyone needs an editor!

  15. Flake-out Friday–EDITING « Author Laura Diamond–Lucid Dreamer Says:

    […] finally, I leave you with some fun writing quotes I found. Click HERE to go to the website. The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is. ~ August […]

  16. bijouannie Says:

    Love these.

  17. writejudi Says:

    Yahoo! obviously lives by Andrew Jackson’s observation: “It’s a damned poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”

    I am hooked on your blog. Exacting minds think alike.

  18. Jean Oram Says:

    Great compilation of quotes. I’ve got to share these with friends. Some are very good tips. 🙂

  19. 7 Words That Weaken Writing - Jean Oram (.com)Jean Oram (.com) Says:

    […] I came across these great writing and editing quotes over on Terribly Write. Thanks, Dad!) Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Share on Google + Share […]

  20. Millionth Monkey Says:

    Great collection of quotes. Thanks.

  21. How to Edit and Improve Your Writing | Elina Hill Says:

    […] Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne […]

  22. How to Edit and Improve Your Writing | Pithy Words Says:

    […] Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne […]

  23. The first cut | re: read pages Says:

    […] For more quotations on editing, check out the blog Terribly Write. […]

  24. writejudi Says:

    Laura, these are wonderful. I’m familiar with many but not all of them. Along with the smiles comes truth. Thank you.

  25. Crystal Reed Says:

    If you’re greeting someone and you’re not saying their name, do you need a comma after the greeting word?

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    live young live free

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  30. Pam Sturgess Says:

    Isn’t the Twain quote actually “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

  31. crt Says:

    It seems that ‘Easy reading is damned hard writing’ should be attributed to Thomas Hood, not Nathanial Hawthorne.

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