Writing Advice from Famous Authors
The following list is meant to be instructive, inspiring and (in some cases) humorous. Writing is difficult work, so try and inject some levity whenever you can. While in most instances, the authors are giving advice on how to write fiction, their suggestions also apply to business writing.
- “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” — William Zinsser
- “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” – Elmore Leonard
- “You can fix anything but a blank page.” – Nora Roberts
- “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
- “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” – Harper Lee
- “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” – Neil Gaiman
- “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
- “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
- “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” – Oscar Wilde
- “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” – Dorothy Parker
- “Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.” – Jonathan Franzen
- “Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!” – Joyce Carol Oates
- “The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’” – Helen Simpson.
- “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway
- “If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.” – George Orwell
- “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” – Elmore Leonard.
- “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.” – James Patterson
- “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” – Ray Bradbury
- “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” – K. Chesterton
- “A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.” – Helen Dunmore
- Ancient Egyptians shaved off their eyebrows to mourn the deaths of their cats.
- The bubbles in Guinness sink to the bottom rather than float to the top as they do in other beers.
- If you put a raisin in a glass of champagne, it will float to the top and sink to the bottom, over and over.
- The fingerprints of koala bears are virtually indistinguishable from those of humans, so much so that they could be confused at a crime scene.
- How often does the human stomach produce a new lining? Every: 3 days, 30 days, 60 days, 180 days
(Fun Facts Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Word of the Month
risible • \ri-zə-bəl\ • adjective
1: deserving to be laughed at; very silly or unreasonable
“Keith’s claim that businesspeople do not need a large vocabulary is risible.”
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence.
“True to her altruistic beliefs, Natalie ___ the ___ attitude of her colleague, that a client represented nothing more than a source of income and an opportunity for advancing one’s professional reputation.”
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Starboard, the right side of a ship, comes from Old English stéorbord which is a combination of stéor, meaning steer, and bord, meaning the side of a boat. On old ships, the rudder or steering paddle was mounted on the right side of the ship. The word port, the left side of a ship, either refers to a harbor (ships would pull up to a harbor on their left side to prevent damaging the steering paddle) or a gate, which was built into the left side of a ship for people to disembark.
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Fun Facts Answer
Natalie, an altruistic person, would “lament” the attitude of a greedy and ambitious colleague whom she would describe as “mercenary.”
SAT level of difficulty: Hard
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