Tuesday, September 4, 2012

on writing - c.s. lewis on language

There are no right or wrong answers about language in the sense in which
there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. "Good English" is whatever
educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be
so in another.  Don't take any notice of teachers and textbooks in such matters.
Nor of logic.

Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and
make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel
about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was
"terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. 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 my job for me.

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.

Via Letters of Note

By Jeanette Salvesen

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