Writing quote of the day

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I sad anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you – even think your thoughts for you… and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

From the essay Politics and the English Language, By George Orwell

3 Responses to “Writing quote of the day”

  1. Jim Murdoch

    Then, of course, we have the character of Grand in Camus’ The Plague, who spends all his time working on the one sentence till he gets it right.

    There is writing and there is thinking about writing and there is room for both in a writer’s life. There is also an argument for letting the words flow freely and pick up the slack when editing.

  2. Scott

    Jim: I agree, all things in moderation (including moderation itself). But in the balance, I wish more of the stuff I read was written with Orwell in mind, than with the Beats.

    And morseo, Orwell doesn’t say when to ask those questions. As you say, it might be best to wait until the words have been sitting on the pagefor some time.



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