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Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose

Constance Hale

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Why do so many of us, when we sit down to write, sound like word processors rather than wordsmiths? Why do we spew the slogans of the consumer culture we work for, rather than sounding like the bards we want to be?”

“Voice is the je ne sais quoi of spirited writing. It separates brochure from brilliance, memo from memoir, a ship’s log from The Old Man and the Sea.…The writer leaves us with a sense that we are listening to a skilled raconteur rather than passing our eyes over ink on paper.”

“Understanding pitch, and being able to adjust it, is especially valuable in an era when information often trumps insight and the flow of data exceeds our capacity to distill–to make it ours and to make it matter. The computer makes it easy to spew out paragraphs; the Kindle, the iPhone, and the iPad make it easy to receive them. But we still need to craft our passages. We want narrators–not newsreaders. We desire stories–not brands, press releases, or tweets. We crave writing that is original, passionate, and personal.”

“To find the right pitch is to be human, to have a sense of the street, while still reaching for the lofty. It means resisting the kind of language that suits cogs in a machine better than sentient beings.”

“The words must conjure the character of a place for readers who may never see it. This may seem like magic, or incomparable talent, but the inspiration starts with acute observation.”

“The technically incorrect It’s me and That’s me have been part of our DNA since as long as English has been recorded. There’s something nice and low-key about them. Maybe we just crave a simple English equivalent of the French C’est moi.”

“The art of sentence making comes down to experimentation, skill, and variety. Just because you can do the three-and-a-half-somersault tuck off the high board doesn’t mean you must ditch the gorgeous swan dive. Good sentences can be short and muscular, and they can be long and graceful.”

“Let’s never forget that we need to speak and write like human beings with hearts, and not like the tin woodsman in The Wizard of Oz or Hal in the movie 2001.”

“If all of this seems paradoxical, get used to it. Language is paradox.”

“Ernest Hemingway once advised prose artists to “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” It’s good advice. But to follow it, you must stop reading.”

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Book Keywords:

language, writing, imagery, sentences, grammar, audience

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