“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.”  Psalm 107:2

Clive Staples Lewis 1898-1963

I was in third grade when C.S. Lewis died.  At the time I was too young to realize that meeting him would have been on my bucket list, had he survived long enough for me to learn what a bucket list was.  Once I encountered his Narnia series, he shot to the top of my author favorites.  As I matured, I also came to appreciate his genius in Christian apologetics and prowess in literary interpretation. 

Lewis seems to have been a very relational person.  He answered every letter he received, taking especial care in his replies to children.

The following is an excerpt from Lewis’s response to a young person who queried about writing.  His advice sums up some of the important principles we’ve been discussing.  They seem simple, but contain some essential guidelines for writers of all ages and proficiency.

            1.  Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

            2.  Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one.  Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

            3.  Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do.  If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

            4.  In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing.  I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified.  Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description.  You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do my job for me.”

            5.  Don’t use words too beg for the subject.  Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

(Taken from C.S. Lewis Letters to Children, NY: Macmillan, 1985, 64)

2 Comments

  1. Jim Guffie

    This should be including as part of the introduction to Preaching 101! Some of the greatest disservice to proclaiming the good news is our poor choice to enhance what is so simple with verbiage that is so cumbersome.

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