Writing advice from Quintilian (circa 96 A.D.)

I came across this passage of writing advice in my reading of Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ (pp. 315):

Clearness is the first essential, then brevity, beauty, and vigor.  Correct repeatedly and stoically.  Erasure is as important as writing.  Prune what is turgid, elevate what is commonplace, arrange what is disorderly, introduce rhythm where the language is harsh, modify where it is too absolute… The best method of correction is to put aside for a time what we have written, so that when we come to it again it may have an aspect of novelty, as of being another man’s work; in this way we may preserve ourselves from regarding our writings with the affection that we lavish upon a newborn child.

When you think about it, not much has changed in nearly 2,000 years.


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