Wisdom of the Masters

Forgive my being lazy today and simply passing along other people’s wisdom. But since the other people are Mark Twain and Stephen King, it’s pretty good stuff:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

— Stephen King

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Douglas Adams.

“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

(Margaret has frequently pointed out that “very” usually makes the point weaker, not stronger. Leave it out. Ditto “just,” a word I way overused until Margaret beat it out of me. If you find yourself writing “just,” reread the sentence and then read it again it without the “just.” It will be better.)

Twain again: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Bonus item, from Harry S. Truman: “I have found that the best way to give advice to the young is to find out what they want to do and then advise them to do it.”

4 thoughts on “Wisdom of the Masters

  1. Absolutely right about “very” and “just.” They make sentences weaker. Here is another, this one from your Harry Truman example: “I have found that the best way to give advice to the young is to find out what they want to do and then advise them to do it.” Leave out a few things and you get a stronger statement: “The best way to give advice to the young is to find out what they want to do and advise them to do it.” Lose the “I have found that” Also lose “then.”

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  2. I also love this Twain classic — advice on writing fiction but equally applicable to narrative nonfiction: “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

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