More Quotations


Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire


To write simply is as difficult as to be good. ~ W. Somerset Maugham


I can’t write five words but that I change seven. ~ Dorothy Parker


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


Writing isn’t hard; thinking is hard. ~ Saul Pett


Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits that spread by imitation and that can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. ~ George Orwell


No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing. ~ E. B. White


If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that’s read by persons who move their lips when they’re reading to themselves. ~ Don Marquis


A period is to let the writer know he has finished his thought, and he should stop there if he will only take the hint. ~ Art Linkletter


Short words are best, and the old words when short are the best of all. ~ Winston Churchill


I would never use a long word where a short one would answer the purpose. I know there are professors in the country who ligate arteries. Other surgeons only tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes


Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. ~ Thomas Jefferson


An ounce of example is worth a pound of generalities. ~ Henry James


Be careful that you write accurately rather than much. ~ Erasmus


An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write. ~ E. B. White


I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil. ~ Truman Capote


Write as if paid by the period. ~ Author Unknown


The point of good writing is knowing when to stop. ~ Lucy Montgomery


I’m sorry. If I’d more time, I would have written a shorter letter. ~ Mark Twain


Someone told me that each equation I include in the book would halve the sales. ~ Stephen Hawking


I cannot think of anybody who doesn’t need an editor, even though some people claim they don’t. ~ Toni Morrison


Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards. ~ Robert Heinlein


Nature fits all her children with something to do,

He who would write and can’t write, can surely review.

~James Russell Lowell


Clever words are not as good as straight talk. ~ Chinese proverb


You’ll never get anywhere with all those damned little short sentences. ~ Gregory Clark to fellow Toronto Star newspaperman Ernest Hemingway


Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentence, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. ~ William Strunk


Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note. ~ Gore Vidal 


No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft. ~ H.G. Wells


Oh, bother the manuscripts, mark them as much as you like: what else are they for? Mark everything that strikes you. I may consider a thing forty-nine times; but if you consider it, it will be considered 50 times; and a line 50 times considered is 2 per cent better than a line 49 times considered. And it is the final 2 per cent that makes the difference between excellence and mediocrity. ~ George Bernard Shaw, to an actress reviewing one of his plays

I had a good editor once who called a good story a ‘talkie,’ which meant it was a story that people were going to talk about. ~ John Feinstein

Verbs are the action words of the language and the most important. Turn to any passage on any page of a successful novel and notice the high percentage of verbs. ~ William Sloan 

The best writing is rewriting. E.B. White

There is no great writing, only great rewriting. ~ Justice Louis Brandeis

Half my life is an act of revision. ~ John Irving  

Revision is one of the true pleasures of writing. ~ Bernard Malamud

Confident writers have the courage to speak plainly; to let their thoughts shine rather than their vocabulary. ~ Ralph Keyes

Editing is rewording activity. ~ Author Unknown

Learn punctuation; it is your little drum set, one of the few tools oyu have to signal the reader where the beats and emphases go. (If you get it wrong, any least thing, the editor will throw your manuscript out.) Punctuation is not like musical notation; it doesn’t indicate the length of pauses, but instead signifies logical relations. There are all sorts of people out there who know these things very well. You have to be among them even to begin. ~ Annie Dillard

What is easy to read has been difficult to write. The labour of writing and rewriting, correcting and recorrecting, is the due exacted by every good book from its author, even if he knows from the beginning exactly what he wants to say. A limpid style is invariably the result of hard labour, and the easily flowing connection of sentence with sentence and paragraph with paragraph has always been won by the sweat of the brow. ~ G. M. Trevelyan

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best. ~ W. Somerset Maugham

There are two kinds of editors, those who correct your copy and those who say it’s wonderful. ~ Theodore H. White 

I see my [editorial] role as helping the writer to realize his or her intention. I never want to impose any other goal on the writer, and I never want the book to be mine. ~ Faith Sale 

Do not write so that you can be understood, write so that you cannot be misunderstood. ~ Epictetus

Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from. ~ Gene Fowler

The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way. ~ Richard Harding Davis

Perfection is achieved, not when there’s nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Antoine de Saint Exupery

The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit. ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Don’t write the parts people don’t read. ~ Elmore Leonard

To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words…. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up. ~ George Orwell

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. ~ Mark Twain

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. ~ Mark Twain

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

Usage is the only test. I prefer a phrase that is easy and unaffected to a phrase that is grammatical. ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Word has somehow got around that the split infinitive is always wrong. That is a piece with the outworn notion that it is always wrong to strike a lady. ~ James Thurber

Writing with voice is writing into which someone has breathed. It has that fluency, rhythm, and liveliness that exist naturally in the speech of most people when they are enjoying a conversation. Writing with real voice has the power to make you pay attention and understand –the words go deep. ~ Peter Elbow

Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work. ~ Carl Sandburg

Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary. ~ Frank L. Visco

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ”How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?” and avoid ”How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece? ~  James Thurber

Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it. ~ Alvin Toffler

Writers’ bedtimes vary, but few have been spared the shock of a copy editor’s early wake-up call. ~ Bill Walsh

Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial “we.” ~ Mark Twain

English is such a deliciously complex and undisciplined language, we can bend, fuse, distort words to all our purposes. We give old words new meanings, and we borrow new words from any language that intrudes into our intellectual environment. ~ Willard Gaylin

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Words, like glass, obscure when they do not aid vision. ~ Joseph Joubert

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. ~ Rudyard Kipling

To write well, express yourself like common people but think like a wise man. Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do. ~ Aristotle

The proper words in the proper places are the true definition of style. ~ Jonathan Swift

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words. ~ George Eliot

[W]hen a good writer is having fun, the audience is almost always having fun too. ~ Stephen King

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. ~ Robert Frost

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do the job for me?” ~ C.S. Lewis

If they give you lined paper, write the other way. ~ e.e.cummings

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~ James Michener

Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill. ~ Edmund Morrison

Writers have two main problems. One is writer’s block, when the words won’t come at all, and the other is logorrhea, when the words come so fast that they can hardly get to the wastebasket in time. ~ Cecelia Bartholomeo

7 Responses to “More Quotations”

  1. Alex Says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Kristy Says:

    Wow. So many amazing thoughts from some of the best writers of all time. Thanks for compiling these. Keep it up!

  3. Karen R Says:

    These are great!

  4. Heather Ordover Says:

    This is marvelous! Thank you!

    (p.s., I think Twain was quoting Pascal on the “brevity” quotation:

  5. Six Big Ideas: Communication 2 | Says:

    […] a short, occasionally humourous and very useful book by D. McCloskey, Economical Writing, or was it Epictetus or Taft?). People who are learning always have trouble with that second part because they do not know what […]

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