William Safire was born 17 December 1929, and died 27 September 2009.
- Adapt your style, if you wish, to admit the colour of slang or freshness of neologism, but hang tough on clarity, precision, structure, grace.
- Never assume the obvious is true.
- Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilised delight.
- I think we all have a need to know what we do not need to know.
- Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day.
- The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.
- A book should have an intellectual shape and a heft that comes with dealing with a primary subject.
- Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.
- Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.
- Composition is a discipline; it forces us to think. If you want to ‘get in touch with your feelings’, fine, talk to yourself. We all do. But if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order, give them a purpose, use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down, and then cut out the confusing parts.
Must-Read: William Safire’s 33 Fumblerules Of Grammar
William Safire was an American author, columnist, journalist, and presidential speech writer. He wrote Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage, On Language, Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History, How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar.
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White House photo by Shealah Craighead., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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