Keys to Better Writing

The following comes from.several accomplished authors like C.S.Lewis.

C. S. Lewis’s 5 Writing Rules

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.

If you enjoyed reading Lewis’s rules, you might also enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s. Check out my article about his rules below:

8 Rules From Kurt Vonnegut That Will Make You a Better Writer (Infographic)
At this point in your writing journey, you’ve probably read hundreds of writing tips by famous authors. If you’re like…

Lewis’s Rules in a Nutshell

All five of these rules share a common underlying principle: when you are writing, your first and foremost concern should be for your reader.

We do not write solely for ourselves but to share our writing with the world.

With that in mind, when you edit your writing, you should try to imagine yourself as your reader.

You, of course, know what was in your head when you wrote those lines, but how will someone interpret them who doesn’t know you?

Are your sentences clear and simple? Are any confusing? Could any have double meanings? Are you using so many long and obscure words that your writing sounds pretentious? Is it too difficult to read?

Lewis warns us not to weigh down our sentences with too many adjectives: show, don’t tell. Let your passion come through. Make your readers feel as if they are seeing with your eyes.

Write in a way that they can see the colors, taste the foods, feel the atmosphere of a room they have never stepped foot in before, and smell the rich and varied scents of the new worlds and experiences you share with them.

Lewis on What it Means to Be a Writer

Of course, that is all easier said than done. And Lewis understood this.

At the beginning of his letter to Joan, he critiqued a piece of her writing and observed,

You describe your Wonderful Night v. well. That is, you describe the place and the people and the night and the feeling of it all, very well — but not the thing itself — the setting but not the jewel. And no wonder! Wordsworth often does just the same.

His Prelude (you’re bound to read it about 10 years hence. Don’t try it now, or you’ll only spoil it for later reading) is full of moments in which everything except the thing itself is described. If you become a writer you’ll be trying to describe the thing all your life: and lucky if, out of dozens of books, one or two sentences, just for a moment, come near to getting it across.

Essentially, Lewis is telling Joan that writing is not a craft we can master in a matter of hours or days. It takes years and years and perhaps can never be mastered at all.

But we can become better writers. We can improve day by day if we are willing to keep on practicing and putting in the hard work.

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