Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One Perfect Turn of Phrase

1) Leave out all unnecessary words.
2) Omit needless words.

These two sentences have nearly identical information content. They both articulate an extremely useful concept. And yet nobody remembers the guy who wrote the first sentence.

Whenever you write an insightful phrase that sounds like it might have a good ring to it, be alert to the possibility that you might be one or two word changes away from the perfect turn of phrase. Keep massaging the text. Play with the word choice and word order. You might turn a good phrase into the perfect phrase.

We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.
--Benjamin Franklin

Young men want to be faithful, and are not; old men want to be faithless, and cannot.
--Oscar Wilde

Although prepared for martyrdom, I prefer that it be postponed.
--Winston Churchill

One phrase, perfectly turned, can make an article, a book or anything else you've written instantly memorable. More importantly, a phrase like this can make your writing marketable.

This is the sort of thing that can make a writer's career.