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Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once, and they require separate techniques.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
Enemies of Promise, Part 1, ch. 3 “The Challenge of the Mandarins” (1938)
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Added on 5-Apr-22 | Last updated 5-Apr-22
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There is a class of people wanting to be called philosophers, who are said to have produced many books actually in Latin. For my part I don’t despise them — I’ve never read them. But since those selfsame writers proclaim that what they write is neither systematic nor properly subdivided nor correct nor polished in style, I pass by reading what would bring no pleasure.

[Est enim quoddam genus eorum qui se philosophos appellari volunt, quorum dicuntur esse Latini sane multi libri; quos non contemno equidem, quippe quos numquam legerim; sed quia profitentur ipsi illi qui eos scribunt se neque distincte neque distribute neque eleganter neque ornate scribere, lectionem sine ulla delectatione neglego.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Tusculan Disputations [Tusculanae Disputationes], Book 2, ch. 3 (2.3) / sec. 7 (45 BC) [tr. Douglas (1990)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

For there is a certain Set of such as assume to themselves the name of Philosophers, who are said to have Books enough in Latin, which I do not despise, for I have never read them; but because the Authors profess themselves, that they write neither with distinction of Terms, nor distribution of Parts, nor elegancy of Language, nor any Ornaments; I neglect to give that reading which is no ways delightful
[tr. Wase (1643)]

For there is a farther certain tribe who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, which I do not despise, for indeed I never read the: but because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity or method, without elegance or ornament: I do not choose to read what is so void of entertainment.
[tr. Main (1824)]

For there is a certain race, who wish to be called philosophers, whose Latin books, indeed, are said to be numerous, which I have no contempt for, really, because I never read them; but, since their authors themselves profess to write without either order or method, ornament or elegance, I neglect a reading which affords me no delight.
[tr. Otis (1839)]

For there is a certain class of them who would willingly be called philosophers, whose books in our language are said to be numerous, and which I do not despise, for indeed I never read them: but still because the authors themselves declare that they write without any regularity, or method, or elegance, or ornament, I do not care to read what must be so void of entertainment.
[tr. Yonge (1853)]

There is, indeed, a certain class of men who want to be called philosophers, who are said to have written many Latin books, which I do not despise, because I have never read them; but inasmuch as their authors profess to write with neither precision, nor system, nor elegance, nor ornament, I omit reading what can give me no pleasure.
[tr. Peabody (1886)]

There is a certain class of authors, who wish to be called philosophers, and who have apparently published many books in Latin. I do not, indeed, condemn them, because I never read them, but because they themselves confess that they have not written their books clearly or in a well-arranged manner, nor elegantly or with any ornament. I avoid the sort of reading which offers no enjoyment.
[tr. @sentantiq (2015)]

There exists a class of men who lay claim to the title of philosophers and are said to be authors of a great many books in Latin. These I personally do not despise, for the reason that I have never read them; but as the writers of these books on their own admission avoid in what they write a systematic approach, due subdivision, correctness, or a polished style. I have no interest in reading what brings no pleasure.
[tr. Davie (2017)]

 
Added on 9-Aug-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing — to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics — Well, they can do whatever they wish.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Nemesis, “Author’s Note” (1989)
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With many readers, brilliancy of style passes for affluence of thought; they mistake buttercups in the grass for immeasurable gold mines under the ground.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale, ch. 13 (1849)
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Added on 16-Jul-21 | Last updated 16-Jul-21
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If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Lords and Ladies (1992)
 
Added on 2-Feb-21 | Last updated 2-Feb-21
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There was this about vampires: they could never look scruffy. Instead, they were … what was the word … deshabille. It meant untidy, but with bags and bags of style.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Monstrous Regiment (2003)
 
Added on 8-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-20
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If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American writer
“Book Reviews,” Esquire (1 Nov 1959)
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Review of William Strunk Jr and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, revised edition.
 
Added on 15-Jun-20 | Last updated 15-Jun-20
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Elegance is the only beauty that never fades.

Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) Belgian-English actress
(Attributed)
 
Added on 14-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Feb-20
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An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (9 Dec 1852)
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In a later letter to Leoroyer de Chanepie (18 Mar 1857), he repeated the sentiment: "The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him."
 
Added on 13-Feb-20 | Last updated 10-Jun-21
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A real writer learns from earlier writers the way a boy learns from an apple orchard — by stealing what he has a taste for and can carry off.

Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982) American poet, writer, statesman
In Charles Poore, “Mr. MacLeish and the Disenchantmentarians,” The New York Times (25 Jan 1968)
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Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 5-Oct-21
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Our ancestors used to wear decent clothes, well-adapted to the shape of their bodies; they were skilled horsemen and swift runners, ready for all seemly undertakings. But in these days the old customs have almost wholly given way to new fads. Our wanton youth is sunk in effeminacy, and courtiers, fawning, seek the favors of women with every kind of lewdness. […] They sweep the dusty ground with the unnecessary trains of their robes and mantles; their long, wide sleeves cover their hands whatever they do; impeded by these frivolities they are almost incapable of walking quickly or doing any kind of useful work.

No picture available
Orderic Vitalis (1075-c. 1142) English monk, chronicler
Historia Ecclesiastica, Book 4 [tr. Chibnall (1969-80)]


Alt. trans.: "Our ancestors used to wear decent clothes, nicely fitted to the shape of their bodies and suitable for riding and running and performing every task that they should reasonably perform. But in these wicked days the practices of olden times have almost completely given way to novel fads."
 
Added on 6-Jul-17 | Last updated 6-Jul-17
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In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale, ch. 13 (1849)
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Styles, like everything else, change. Style doesn’t.

Linda Ellerbee (b. 1944) American broadcast journalist
Move On: Adventures in the Real World (1991)
 
Added on 15-Mar-17 | Last updated 15-Mar-17
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Every age has its pleasures, its style of wit, and its own ways.

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) French poet and critic
The Art of Poetry [L’Art Poétique], Canto 3 (1674)
 
Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Aristophanes (c. 450-c. 388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Clouds, l. 914 (c. 423 BC) [tr. Arrowsmith (1962)]


This phrase comes from a single translation, by William Arrowsmith (1962), of Aristophanes, The Clouds, l. 914. It is the only translation that includes anything like that:
[909] Philosophy: Why, you Precocious Pederast! You Palpable Pervert!
[910] Sophistry: Pelt me with roses!
[910] Philosophy: You Toadstool! O Cesspool!
[911] Sophistry: Wreath my hairs with lilies!
[911] Philosophy: Why, you Parricide!
[912] Sophistry: Shower me with gold! Look, don't you see I welcome your abuse?
[913] Philosophy: Welcome it, monster? In my day we would have cringed with shame.
[914] Sophistry: Whereas now we're flattered. Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Compare to Hickey (1853):
[909] Just Cause: You are debauched and shameless.
[910] Unjust Cause: You have spoken roses of me.
[910] Just Cause: And a dirty lickspittle.
[911] Unjust Cause: You crown me with lilies.
[911] Just Cause: And a parricide.
[912] Unjust Cause: You don't know that you are sprinkling me with gold.
[913] Just Cause: Certainly not so formerly, but with lead.
[914] Unjust Cause: But now this is an ornament to me.
 
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 8-Jul-20
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Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; — & they are the life, the soul of reading; — take them out of this book for instance, — you might as well take the book along with them.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1786) Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman
Tristam Shandy, Book 1, ch. 22 (1760-1767)
 
Added on 25-Feb-16 | Last updated 25-Feb-16
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Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Postscriptum de Ma Vie [Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography] (1907) [tr. O’Rourke]
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Added on 26-Nov-14 | Last updated 26-Nov-14
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All styles are good, except the tiresome kind.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
L’Enfant prodigue, Preface (1736)
 
Added on 28-Oct-14 | Last updated 28-Oct-14
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Style is the garb of thought.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 95 “On the Superficial Blessings,” sec. 2 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
 
Added on 21-Oct-14 | Last updated 21-Oct-14
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A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 13 (1938)
 
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Style has to do with the way in which ideas are believed and advocated rather than with the truth or falsity of their content.

Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) American historian and intellectual
“The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Herbert Spencer Lecture, Oxford (Nov 1963)
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Reprinted in Harpers (Nov 1964). Often misattributed to Douglas Hofstadter.
 
Added on 7-Oct-14 | Last updated 7-Oct-14
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If the thought or substance is fully mastered, the style will take care of itself. Good style in writing is like happiness in living — something that comes to you, if it comes at all, only if you are pre-occupied with something else: if you deliberately go after it, you will probably not get it.

Carl L. Becker (1873-1945) American historian
“The Art of Writing,” Detachment and the Writing of History [ed. Snyder (1958)]
 
Added on 30-Sep-14 | Last updated 30-Sep-14
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We ought in fairness to fight our case with no help beyond the bare facts: nothing, therefore, should matter except the proof of those facts. Still, as has been already said, other things affect the result considerably, owing to the defects of our hearers.

[δίκαιον γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἀγωνίζεσθαι τοῖς πράγμασιν, ὥστε τἆλλα ἔξω τοῦ ἀποδεῖξαι περίεργα ἐστίν: ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως μέγα δύναται, καθάπερ εἴρηται, διὰ τὴν τοῦ ἀκροατοῦ μοχθηρίαν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Rhetoric [Ῥητορική; Ars Rhetorica], Book 3, ch. 1, sec. 5 (3.1.5) / 1404a (350 BC) [tr. Roberts (1924)]
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On style vs. substance in shaping judgment. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For justice would be to contend with the facts only, so that every thing else beside the mere demonstration is superfluous; nevertheless, it [style] is of great influence, as has been said, owing to the corruption of the hearers.
[Source (1847)]

Our facts ought to be our sole weapons, making everything superfluous which is outside the proof; owing to the infirmities of the hearer, however, style, as we have said, can do much.
[tr. Jebb (1873)]

For justice should consist in fighting the case with the facts alone, so that everything else that is beside demonstration is superfluous; nevertheless, as we have just said, it [style] is of great importance owing to the corruption of the hearer.
[tr. Freese (1926)]

Although [...] in justice, litigants should appeal only to the facts to contest the case, so that everything apart from demonstration is superfluous, it remains the case, as I have aid, that, thanks to the audience's moral weakness, delivery is very effective.
[tr. Waterfield (2018)]

 
Added on 7-Feb-14 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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In matters of style, swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a rock.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
(Spurious)


A common phrase in the late 19th Century. Only associated with Jefferson as of the mid-20th Century.
 
Added on 19-Jul-07 | Last updated 4-Jul-22
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