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Friday, April 19, 2013

If you want just one "golden rule" of writing...

...and a very good one, too, here it is:

Intend every word you write.

This is the golden rule formulated by veteran blogger Eric Cummings, who has written a guest post on the subject of writing rules for Write to Done, a blog about the art and craft of writing.


Cummings says he came up with this rule, or, rather, he learned it on the second day of the creative writing class he was taking, as his story about a farmer and his mule was read aloud.

I had spent some time writing it, one day rewriting it, and another afternoon editing it. I was nervous but confident. It was a good story.

The story began, “Light barely flooded into the room.”

“Wait.” Less than a sentence in, the Professor stopped the student reading my story. He turned to me, “Eric, what do you mean, ‘Light barely flooded into the room.’?”

“Well, it is sunrise, and the sun is coming up.” I said.

“But how can light ‘barely flood’ in? Do you mean the word flood?”

Light could either barely trickle in, or flood in, but it couldn’t do both. The lesson wasn’t that I needed to be clearer and more precise with my language–though I did–it was that I didn’t know what my words meant. I didn’t own the words on the page. The questions the professor asked us over the course of the quarter were always the same, “What do you mean?” “What did you intend here?” or “Why did you use this word?”

And so Cummings learned that writers must intend every word they write.

Read his enriching post here. (Enriching? Yes, you will come away feeling richer.)

In the same post, Cummings also provides seven tips for what he refers to as implementing intentionality behind your writing, to better convey what you want to say. Pay special attention to No. 2 and No. 7.
  • Also, check out the "Popular Posts" list on the Write to Done site.