Book Bits: Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy

This book on writing was a lot of fun. The guy knows how to write. If I included all of his helpful insights and catchy phrasing it’d make for a long post, so here’s a handful.wordsmithy

1.  “When people are focusing on your rhetoric…it means that you are failing in your rhetoric” (19).

2. “The most contagious form of teaching is when an instructor loves his material in the presence of others – whom he also loves.  We have all heard someone tell a joke before when the joke wasn’t all that funny, but the joke teller was wheezing, trying to get through it.  Chances are that his audience was caught up in the experience too, enjoying the enjoyment that the joke teller had in his joke” (26).

3. “If you ‘write by rule’ only, then, as Quintilian once put it, you will come up something that is equally free of both vice and virtue, like a verbal tapioca pudding made with skim milk.  Our world already has too much verbiage in it that comes off like it was written by a committee or a computer – or maybe a committee of computers” (32).

4. “Most of what is shaping you in the course of your reading you will not be able to remember.  The most formative years of my life were the first five, and if those years were to be evaluated on the basis of my ability to pass a test on them, the conclusion would be that nothing important happened then, which would be false.  The fact that you can’t remember things doesn’t mean that you haven’t been shaped by them” (34).

5. On receiving criticism: “You have to have that rare combination of thick skin and a tender heart” (87).

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