An Honest Pen

“Grammar aside, good writing is as I have said, the honest expression of what the writer knows or sees or believes or feels. Its first rule is truth. Set aside bad grammar and maladroit style. Good writing is honest and possesses those traits that are the common companions of honesty: clarity, modesty, plainness, good humor. Bad writing is dishonest and keeps company with ruffians and fools: vagueness, muddle, ostentation, self-promotion, and concealment. We cannot teach every student to be John Ruskin. We cannot teach more than a few of them to be worthy imitators of John Ruskin. But we can teach them to be honest. We cannot raise every boy to be Lord Nelson or every woman to be Florence Nightingale. But we can raise every boy to be a man and every girl to be a woman.

So, when I don my robe as the Unteacher, I never say to my students, ‘Follow these steps and you will be a great writer,’ as if I were imparting the secret ingredients of an infallible potion. I say, ‘Never pretend to know what you do not really know. Never pretend to believe what you do not believe. Never affect a certainty you cannot reasonably claim. Never affect uncertainty so as not to offend the muddled. Never use a word whose meaning and usage you are unclear about. Never open a thesaurus unless you are looking for a word you know quite well but cannot at the moment remember. Never put on airs.”

– Anthony Esolen, “Common Core’s Substandard Writing Standards

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One thought on “An Honest Pen

  1. Pingback: Thoughts to Savour | Arenda Reads

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