word craft


Revealing how writers write

  • Nabokov's Favorite Word is MauveErnest Hem­ing­way has the lit­er­ary rep­u­ta­tion for pre­cise, unclut­tered writ­ing. Is it justified?
  • Elmore Leonard famous­ly object­ed to the use of excla­ma­tion points (!) to juice up the ener­gy of prose. Did he fol­low his own advice?
  • E.B. White urged read­ers to cur­tail using the word “not” to describe actions. Describe actions, he urged, in pos­i­tive terms.  It enhances char­ac­ter por­tray­al.  Did his own writ­ing do that?
  • Who among pop­u­lar writ­ers today uses the most cliché’s? The least?
  • Is there a best—typical—way to begin a book?
  • If you are a writer, is there one word of which you are so fond—or is it just a habit—that you use it exces­sive­ly, so that you there­by deplete your own writ­ing and the impact of that very word?

Ben Blatt, in his book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, answers these ques­tions and many more. He does so by using up-to-date mass data col­lec­tion and com­put­er scans, to reveal how writ­ers write. I found the book not only fas­ci­nat­ing, but—from a writ­ing point of view—very instructive.

He is not sug­gest­ing there is a math­e­mat­i­cal for­mu­la for good writ­ing, but that every writer has pat­terns, imbed­ded struc­tures, and word usage, which may help, or hurt one’s work.  The point is, a good writer needs to become con­scious of these elements.

As for those who teach writ­ing, this is a book that will help you define some key prob­lems about the skill—and difficulty—of writ­ing well.

Read­ers? You’ll be fas­ci­nat­ed what you have, or have not noticed.

Librar­i­ans, you will look at your shelves differently.

4 thoughts on “Revealing how writers write”

  1. I always enjoy your posts, Avi. I will def­i­nite­ly look up this book. One of my recur­ring themes, as a writer, is inclu­sion and I have a ten­den­cy to write with a British mind­set — spelling, words — prob­a­bly from being an Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture major. 🙂 Oh, and I like smi­ly faces.

  2. Inter­est­ing thoughts. When I first began writ­ing with Dr Mil­dred Laugh­lin I used the word “won­der­ful” over and over and nev­er noticed until she cir­cled and laughed at every overused descrip­tor. It was a “won­der­ful” way to point out my weak­ness. I still laugh when I see or hear that word.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts