“Substitute ‘damn’ everytime you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~ Mark Twain
I love Mark Twain’s wisdom, and his wit. With the narrowed eyes and steady arm of a master archer, his advice still strikes like arrows at the heart of writing craft. Twain understood the inherent energy that results in choosing the right word for the task. Of writing tight.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter,” Twain wrote in a letter in 1888. “It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Think about it…the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening. The first time I heard those words I was blown away with their depth. How often in my writing do I use a bland, generic word when the story needs a specific noun, or an active verb?
One of my favorite writing references is, quite literally, a little book – Strunk and White’s THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. Aside from understandable advice about grammar and punctuation, the book discusses the simple essense of good writing. Use active voice. Omit needless words. Keep related words together. There are chapters on often misused words, and on words commonly misspelled.
THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is a fun volume to keep on your desk, or bedside table. To pick up and peruse at odd moments. It is clear and concise. I’ve no doubt Mark Twain would have appreciated its simplicity.
→ Who do you look to for sage advice on the craft of writing? Do you have a favorite quote, author, or reference book? Please share.