Inspirational quotes on good writing

Posted on 11 June 2015 by Emily Stella

A selection of quotes on writing well to inspire you.

On thinking and writing

Executives at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually, a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking. William Zinsser

When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus, brevity is a by-product of vigour. William Strunk

Easy reading is damn hard writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Stephen King

Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you say, then say it as simply as possible. The Economist

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 said anything that is unavoidably ugly? George Orwell

On punctuation

An excessive use of exclamation marks is a certain indication of an unpractised writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational. Henry Watson Fowler

Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop. Lynne Truss

On language

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone. Confucius

Proper words in proper places make the true definition of style. Jonathan Swift

On how a good writer treats sentences: At times, he may indulge himself with a long one, but he will make sure there are no folds in it, no vagueness, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when he has done with it, it won’t be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torch-light procession. Mark Twain

Recommended reading

If you’re interested in learning more about language, style, and clear writing, I recommend these resources:

The Complete Plain Words, Ernest Gowers
(an excellent guide to clear writing)
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield
(a world authority on language and use)
Oxford Guide to Plain English, Martin Cutts
(sensible, modern advice)