Quotations about   style

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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 4-Oct-18
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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.

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 (1849)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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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 line frequently quoted to show the antiquity of the sentiment. However, it is only found in the Arrowsmith translation. Compare, for example, to Hickie (1853)
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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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)
Added on 14-Oct-14 | Last updated 14-Oct-14
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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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