Eminent Quotables

English Glossary Index

Eminent Quotables :

These quotations — more than 200 of them — are taken from a variety of sources — books of quotations, books about writing, other people's online lists of quotations, book jackets, etc. No claim is made here regarding the authenticity of the quotation or the precision of the language. Enjoy them, though, for what they are worth — their humor, their inspiration, their earnest advice and good wishes for you, another writer.

If you would like to send me a favorite quotation about writing, please use this e-mail link. We are particularly interested in quotations about writing from women writers.

Amidst your Ardour for Greek and Latin I hope you will not forget your mother Tongue. Read Somewhat in the English Poets every day. . . . You will never be alone, with a Poet in your Poket. You will never have an idle Hour. (John Adams - 14 May 1781)

A Pen is certainly an excellent Instrument, to fix a Mans Attention and to inflame his Ambition. (John Adams)

The act of writing is an act of optimism. You would not take the trouble to do it if you felt that it didn't matter. (Edward Albee)

I write to find out what I'm talking about. (Edward Albee)

If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing. (Kingsley Amis)

The greatest thing in style is to have a command of metaphor. (Aristotle)

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. (Matthew Arnold)

I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn't, I would die. (Isaac Asimov)

From my close observation of writers ... they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.(Isaac Asimov)

I was once being interviewed by Barbara Walters in three segments, all at once, though they were to be run on three separate days. In between two of the segments, she asked me how many books I had written, and I told her.
She said, "Don't you ever want to do anything but write?"
"No," I said.
"Don't you want to go hunting? Fishing? Dancing? Hiking?"
And I said, "No! No! No! and No!"
She said, "But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?"
I said, "Type faster." (Isaac Asimov)

We have all been little pitchers with big ears, shooed out of the kitchen when the unspoken is being spoken, and we have probably all been tale-bearers, blurters at the dinner table, unwitting violators of adult rules of censorship. Perhaps this is what writers are: those who never kicked the habit. We remained tale-bearers. We learned to keep our eyes open, but not to keep our mouths shut. (Margaret Atwood)

Their conference was put an end to by the anxious young lover himself, who came to breathe his parting sigh before he set off for Wiltshire. Catherine wished to congratulate him, but knew not what to say, and her eloquence was only in her eyes. From them, however, the eight parts of speech shone out most expressively, and James could combine them with ease. (Jane Austen Northanger Abbey)

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. (Richard Bach)

A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream. (Gaston Bachelard)

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. (Francis Bacon)

The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any. (Russel Baker)

You can usually blame a bad essay on a bad beginning. (Sheridan Baker)

The writer's greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody; in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all. (James Baldwin)

Ask Mr. Language Person

Q. Please explain how to diagram a sentence.

A. First spread the sentence out on a clean, flat surface, such as an ironing board. Then, using a sharp pencil or X-Acto knife, locate the "predicate," which indicates where the action has taken place and is usually located directly behind the gills. For example, in the sentence: "LaMont never would of bit a forest ranger," the action probably took place in a forest. Thus your diagram would be shaped like a little tree with branches sticking out of it to indicate the locations of the various particles of speech, such as your gerunds, proverbs, adjutants, etc. (Dave Barry)

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous. (Robert Benchley)

Thought itself needs words. It runs on them like a long wire. And if it loses the habit of words, little by little it becomes shapeless, somber. (Ugo Betti)

From The Devil's Dictionary:

Dictionary, :
n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.

n. A system of pitfalls thoughtfully prepared for the feet of the self-made man, along the path by which he advances to distinction.

Me, :
pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each is all three. (Ambrose Bierce)

There's a great power in words, if you don't hitch too many of them together. (Josh Billings)

If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel. (Lawrence Block)

Creativity is a continual surprise. (Ray Bradbury)

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all. (Rita Mae Brown)

Don't ask to live in tranquil times. Literature doesn't grow there. (Rita Mae Brown - Starting from Scratch)

Those who write as they speak, even though they speak well, write badly. (Buffon - Georges Louis Leclerc)

There is a satisfactory boniness about grammar which the flesh of sheer vocabulary requires before it can become vertebrate and walk the earth. But to study it for its own sake, without relating it to function, is utter madness. (Anthony Burgess)

It is not the business of grammar, as some critics seem preposterously to imagine, to give law to the fashions which regulate our speech. On the contrary, from its conformity to these, and from that alone, it derives all its authority and value. (George Campbell)

NOTE : Quotations from Latin or Greek sources have been provided and translated by Professor of Humanities Ronald E. Pepin, Capital Community College.

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