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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gems from Mark Twain

I believe we can learn many things from others, and writers can also learn from other writers.  Acclaimed American humorist and writer, Mark Twain, certainly tossed out gems of wisdom about the craft of writing.  Following are two of my favorites from which everyone can profit.

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
Mark Twain

How many times do you use "very" in your writing?  Ah, this is something we all need to carefully watch as there is much truth in Twain's comment.

Here's the second one:

Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.
Mark Twain

As many writing teachers reiterate, "Show; don't tell."  When you revise, keep Twain's sound recommendation in mind and look for instances of telling that could be revised, instead, to show.  

These are two great pieces of advice from a writing master.  I hope you can incorporate these skills into your writing.  

Before I close this blog entry, I'll leave you with one more quote from Mark TwainThe difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.  

Happy Writing!


  1. Fabulous reminders from one of my favorite writers. I don't think I use very too much- may have to do a search to see, though!


  2. re: "Bring her on and let her scream."

    So how do you write that? "AAAHHH!" or "OOOOHH" just don't sound right!

  3. How's this, David, for showing? Horror rose in her throat, spreading upward. Rose could not prevent the instinctive, primal sound erupting and spiraling out of control, and in a split second, as if she were at a distance, she heard herself mindlessly screaming. The high-pitched noise continued unbridled, piercing the gentle noises of nature at sunset. As the sight of the dismembered body scattered about the campsite imprinted itself in her mind, the shrillness abruptly ceased as Rose turned her back, spewing vomit, coating the leaves on the forest floor with a flood of off-white disgust, and finally, silence.

  4. Nine lines to say "She screamed." Yes, you sure showed me! I took Twain's admonition as an order to quote her, and not to "narrate" the situation. I see what he meant now! Thanks!

  5. Maybe the first line and a half shows, but I got too excited with the story I was creating, which took off on its own accord, spinning wildly out of control, so I didn't do it right either. :)

  6. Just saying thanks wouldn’t just be enough, for the fantastic fluency in your writing.Grammarly reviews