Mark Twain on Writing: Graphic Quotes

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Twain was a prolific dispenser of wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. Below are some choice Twainisms on writing.

Mark Twain quote on writing“The rules governing literary art require that the author shall use the right word, not its second cousin.” ~Mark Twain

Mark Twain on Writing“The rules governing literary art require that the author shall say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.” ~Mark Twain

Mark Twain“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” ~Mark Twain

Mark Twain Quote“The rules governing literary require that the personages in a tale be alive, except in the cases of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.” ~Mark Twain

Mark Twain on Writing“The rules of literary art require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his take and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.” ~Mark Twain

Twain on Writing 1“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. that is the way to write English — it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.” ~letter to D.W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

What was modern in 1880 isn’t modern anymore, but this advice is still good.

Mark Twain on Writing 2“When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. they weaken when they are close together. they give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

~letter to D.W. Bowser, 20 March 1880~letter to D.W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian Wasko

Brian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.

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  1. Olja Finn
    Olja Finn07-27-2016

    I am writing a scientific review article and quoting Mark Twain “use the right word, not its second cousin.” I see that you have the rules superimposed on his picture. What is the source of these. I would like to use the picture and need to know where to send the request for permission to reprint?
    Thank you for your help.

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