Happy Birthday, James Kilpatrick, born 1 November 1920, died 15 August 2010
The Top Six Kilpatrick Quotes on Writing
- If you would write emotionally, be first unemotional. If you would move your readers to tears, do not let them see you cry.
- Be clear, be clear, be clear! Your image or idea may be murky but do not write murkily about it. Be murky clearly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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