3 Writing Tips I Learned from Mark Twain


Mark Twain
Mark Twain

Edit your work

“We write frankly and fearlessly but then we “modify” before we print.”-Mark Twain

All good writers need a good editor, even if that editor turns out to be himself. You should write passionately and honestly. But then go back with a critical eye and polish what is there. Sometimes raw emotion, or sloppy writing, can get in the way of the idea you are trying to convey.

Don’t publish first drafts

“The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.” – Mark Twain

Seldom is a first draft of your work going to be ready for publishing. A first draft is a great place to organize your thoughts and figure out your flow. But always be prepared to create more than one. Try stepping away from your writing for a little while after the first draft to get some space from it before jumping in on your second version. You’ll be surprised by what you find when you return to it.

Keep it simple

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable.” – Mark Twain

Often writers find themselves locked into the habit of using 50 cent words when 10 cent words will do. There is an art in writing clearly, succinctly, and simply. Good writing is not a display of your vast command of the English language, but rather your ability to communicate an idea clearly to a large number of people.