Some thoughts on writing well

John Leo in City Journal:

WritingcolorSo how should we write and restore the integrity of good English? Candor, clarity and sincerity are important keys. All of us are weary of writers who dance around their subjects, protecting friends, bending facts to push a cause. “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” Orwell wrote. “When there is a gap between one’s real and declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.”

Further, our minds are clogged with the clichés, idioms, and rhythms of other people, and we have to work to avoid them. Paul Johnson says, “Most people when they write, including most professional writers, tend to slip into seeing events through the eyes of others because they inherit stale expressions and combinations of words, threadbare metaphors, clichés and literary conceits. This is particularly true of journalists.”

Kurt Vonnegut has said that a writer’s natural style will almost always be drawn from the speech he heard as a child. Vonnegut grew up in Indiana, where, he said, “common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin.” He wrote: “I myself find I trust my own writing most and other people seem to trust it most, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.”

More here.