The Elements of Writing

Elements of writting

1. A good book is the offspring of many fathers and the father of many offspring.

2. Writer’s Goal By art to attain simplicity.

3. A good style is simple and powerful, like a wave breaking on a beach.

4. Simplicity La Bruyère, knowing that many writers make the mistake of expressing simple things in a complex way, gave this advice to writers: “if you want to say that it is raining, say: ‘It is raining’.” Simplicity is the mark of good prose, and it’s also a virtue in other branches of culture, such as architecture. The chief virtue of Greek architecture is simplicity.

The Greeks regarded simplicity as both a cultural virtue and a moral virtue. “Beauty of style,” wrote Plato, “and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity—I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character.”(1) If there is one quality that is lacking in modern art, in modern architecture, and in the modern soul, it is simplicity.

5. Clarity Serious writers strive to be understood, strive for clarity. Bad writers, on the other hand, aren’t afraid of being obscure as long as they can make the reader think, “What an extensive vocabulary! What learning! What talent!” The surest sign of bad prose is the use of uncommon words where common words would suffice.

Clarity can be achieved by the repetition of certain words. Repetition is more comprehensible for the reader than variety. As Anatole France said, “You will find in my paragraphs a word that comes over and over again. That is the leit-motiv of the symphony. Be careful not to delete and replace it by a synonym.”(2) One of the most common stylistic mistakes is avoiding repetition, and replacing a previously-used word with a synonym.

But clarity alone doesn’t make good prose; clarity must be combined with brevity. Good prose is so concise that every word has the importance of an italicized word.

6. Five Techniques A good writer makes skillful use of five techniques: he addresses someone, gives orders, asks questions, makes exclamations, and repeats certain words. Addressing someone is sometimes described as the vocative case, while ordering someone, telling someone what to do, is sometimes described as the imperative case.

Shakespeare uses the vocative case, followed by the imperative case, when he makes Juliet say, “Romeo, doff thy name.
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