Literary Birthday - 1 November - James Kilpatrick

Happy Birthday, James Kilpatrick, born 1 November 1920, died 15 August 2010

The Top Six Kilpatrick Quotes on Writing

  1. If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.
  2. Be clear, be clear, be clear! Your image or idea may be murky but do not write murkily about it. Be murky clearly.
  3. Five common traits of good writers: (1) They have something to say. (2) They read widely and have done so since childhood. (3) They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a 'capacity for clear thought', able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach. (4) They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words. (5) They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.
  4. Some words are like some machines: They wear out sooner than others. Everybody used to have an 'icebox'. One’s sister once played a 'uke'. A widow was a 'relict'. Definitions are like magazine subscriptions. Usually we renew, but look at Look and Ladies’ Home Companion. Sometimes they just expire.
  5. Spelling counts. Spelling is not merely a tedious exercise in a fourth-grade classroom. Spelling is one of the outward and visible marks of a disciplined mind.
  6. The first secret of good writing: We must look intently, and hear intently, and taste intently. 

James Jackson Kilpatrick was an American editorial columnist and grammarian. He was a legal abstractionist, a social conservative, and an economic libertarian. Kilpatrick wrote more than a dozen books, including The Writer’s Art, about his love of language.

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