What C.S. Said


I love me some C.S. Lewis. Brilliant, yet a devout Christian, plus he had a lyrical, romantically doomed romance. Clive Staples Lewis is the quintessential British literary hero.

So, for all my writing buds, here is some very simple yet profound advice Lewis gave to a young fan about the tortious path to being a writer:

What really matters is:–

1. 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.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. 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.”

5. 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.


One response to “What C.S. Said

  1. Really pragmatic, short and to the point. Writing should be about that. In short, words should be a medium for people to come together and imagine whole new worlds, interesting characters and situations they would never have the courage to step into. Being vague, wordy for the sake of being “artistic” leads writers and readers nowhere very fast.

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