Profile

Cover photo
Gregory Lynn
Works at writing silly stories about serious things.
Attended Boston College
Lived in Wayland, MA
16,600 followers|545,968 views
AboutPostsPhotosVideos+1's

Stream

 
#IndispensableWritingBooks Elements of Style has the best single sentence of writing advice ever

I chose Strunk and White’s Elements of Style to be the first in my series of Indispensable Writing Books just because it has what I think is the single best sentence of writing advice ever given. It’s right there in the table of contents, the title of Part III, Number 13.

Omit needless words.

It sounds too simple to be real advice, and a number of people misconstrue it, but when you understand what it’s saying, it’s tremendous advice.

If you clink on the link in that table of contents, you’ll get the full text of Number 13:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

The concept of necessary words, and the definition of them as words that tell can be incredibly powerful. If you’re looking at non fiction, the fact of the matter is that clarity is paramount. There’s magic in a simple declarative sentence followed by more simple declarative sentences that take the reader from the introduction to a concept through all the details they need to know.

It’s a little bit different with fiction, because you’re not just trying to solve a problem or educate the reader. You’re trying to characterize your characters. You’re trying to do things with setting and mood and all the other things that go into making a tremendous reading experience.

One might think that omitting needless words means paring down on description and mood and colorful dialogue and all those kinds of fun things.

That’s crap.

Description is necessary. Mood is necessary. Characterization is necessary.

When you’re editing—and that’s when you should be applying this advice—you should be looking at a word or a phrase and asking if that word or phrase is necessary. Some words are necessary just because they’re all the connecty bits that hold the rest of the words together. Some are necessary just because they are the meat of what you’re trying to convey.

And some of them are necessary because they convey mood, or add to the characterization of a character, or any of a bunch of other things.

When you’re looking at a word or phrase to see if it is necessary, you first need to ask yourself if the mood, description, or characterization is necessary, not just in the book, but in that spot in the book. If the answer is no, cut it. If the answer is yes, ask if the words are necessary to convey what you want to convey about mood, theme, character, or whatever, and if not, cut them out and find better words.

---

Shared for free via +Do Share
I chose Strunk and White's Elements of Style to be the first in my series of Indispensable Writing Books just because it has what I think is the single best sentence of writing advice ever given. It's right there in the table of contents, the title of Part III, Number 13. Omit needless words.
3
1
Eoghann Irving's profile photo
Add a comment...
 
I’m going to be starting something new here. When I decided to give this whole writing thing a try, the first thing I did was start reading as many books on the craft as I could. That’s something I pretty much always do. I figure that reading as much as you can about how to do a thing has got to shorten the learning curve a bit.

I participate in some writing forums and a lot of my friends on social media are writers, and every now and then there is a question as to which writing resources are the most awesome, and I often give the same answers so I would like to have a place to put those answers so I can just point to them when the questions arise.

I’m going to put each book on it’s own separate page, and I’m going to link to them all here [ed. on the blog, not the plus] because I want to be able to link to them individually and as a group.

I’m calling it the Indispensable Writing Books series, and I’m going to hashtag the crap out of that in the post titles for social media purposes. I think I’m going to be posting them on Wednesdays just because Wednesday and Writing both start with a W and well, that’s a good enough reason for me.

We’re going to start tomorrow with what I consider to be the single best sentence of writing advice in the known universe, and we’ll go on from there. I’m not going in any particular order, but I am going to try to alternate between books about the craft of writing and books on building a career as a writer.

If you think this is a nifty idea, feel free to join in and use the hashtag (#IndispensableWritingBooks) and post on Wednesdays and maybe it can become a thing.

#IndispensableWritingBooks
I'm going to be starting something new here. When I decided to give this whole writing thing a try, the first thing I did was start reading as many books on the craft as I could. That's something I pretty much always do. I figure that reading as much as you can about how to do a thing has got to ...
20
2
Mike Reeves-McMillan's profile photoAlexis Collazo's profile photoRich G.'s profile photoJulia Stevenson's profile photo
8 comments
 
Love the idea. +Jürgen Erhard​There are a lot of great books on writing that are examples of great writing themselves. It's not all about the instructions they give or theorizing. 
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
 
Baseball

Hey dudes and dudettes, if you love baseball and love looking for all the ridiculously stupid things you can look for with baseball, you're going to love the BaseballReference.com Play Index.

It's the awesomest awesome in the history of awesome, and it can help you find the most ridiculous stuff you ever imagined.

And it's free through April 15, so enjoy!
1
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
 
I have come to hate folks who put lengthy excerpts after their book. When the book ends at 80% I'm always thrown off.
4
Lisa “LJ” Cohen's profile photoMike Reeves-McMillan's profile photoGregory Lynn's profile photoRenee Bennett's profile photo
14 comments
 
+Lisa Cohen A short preview, say, 3 - 5 pages, isn't out of line; it's the equivalent of picking up the book and looking at the first few pages of the first chapter. (I still find this frustrating if I want to start reading that book...!)

What bugs me is seeing whole chapters, sometimes multiple chapters, at the end of the current book. Just enough to set the book up, without any follow-through. Any excerpts were very rare a decade or so ago; they've become more and more common, and longer, as the years have passed.

Is this the print version of Amazon's 'Look Inside!' feature? I dunno ... I just know that, as a dedicated bibliophile, they're wasted on me. I suspect, though, that they aren't aimed at dedicated bibliophiles; they are more likely aimed at the reading equivalent of the swing voter.

Increasingly, I've stopped bothering to read them. Like I said, wasted trees.

YMMV.
Add a comment...
 
How the fuck do morons like this get elected?
5
Gregory Lynn's profile photoJw Collins's profile photoCyndi S. Jameson's profile photoCarol Lynn's profile photo
9 comments
 
I still want you to quit using the word so much. You can be honest without using the F bomb. It is unbecoming a gentleman.
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
1
Add a comment...
 
Hey, anyone else get a little pissed off reading this?

#CleanReader

If you want to read my books without all the profanity, you don't want to read my books.

And mind you, I haven't published anything with all that much profanity.

But now...well, I'm thinking...
  There exists a new app called Clean Reader. The function of Clean Reader is to scrub the profanity from e-books. Their tagline: "Read books. Not profanity." You can dial in how much of the p...
3
1
Dor Kleiman (configurator)'s profile photoKaren Conlin's profile photoRenee Bennett's profile photoDerrick Sanders's profile photo
12 comments
 
The attitude of 'the presence of profanity or stigmatized words = bad writing' also ignores what the profanity and stigmatized words do. I see them most often as emotional intensifiers; the Huck example shows one as a class marker.

I would agree that some writers overuse them, but then, we all have our bad habits, and one such is ignoring the tools of the trade. Choosing not to use something is not the same as refusing to use something, and the nuance in meaning matters. It can make the difference between good writing... and merely adequate writing.

YMMV.
Add a comment...
Have him in circles
16,600 people
roberta graf's profile photo
Joseph Nichols's profile photo
knhsoftball99's profile photo
Som Rana's profile photo
Daniel Branch's profile photo
Josh Drake's profile photo
Skittleslove234's profile photo
Greg Utterback's profile photo
Riley Carr's profile photo
 
Wanted to finish at 5:00

Actually finishted at 8:47

#NotHavingAGoodDay  

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch some beisbol.
6
Ellen Joyce's profile photoAmy Knepper's profile photo
2 comments
 
Hope your fucking day goes better, +Gregory Lynn​. 
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
5
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
 
I wish I had all the money, I'd back this in a nano second and I haven't actually played an RPG in way too many years.

But they're cool and you should back them because the world needs more cool.
 
For all the table top gamers out there, these mats are awesome. The kickstarter just launched yesterday.

Tiles that stack, easy to fit in a gamers book bag, with magnetic edges. thirty bucks gets you ten mix and match tiles. Go watch the video, then shower them with money, I want some of these, so make them successful.
Modular gaming mats that fit any size or shape table, work with any marker, and are super durable.
7 comments on original post
2
1
James “Grim” Desborough's profile photo
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
 
Hey guys, if you haven't seen +H.N. James​' photography, you should check it out and, if you've the cash, and the will, support her Patreon campaign. She's good people.

And totally not a Cylon.
 
It's aliiiiiiiive!

It's finally here - today is Launch Day for my Patreon page. There's even a video where I talk like a dork and ask for your support. For just $1 a month you can see all the behind-the-scenes stuff - yes, even MORE than I post about on G+!

Visit just for the video, even if you don't have spare change to rub together - I totally get it. Feel free to share with your friends and pass the message along.

Thanks so much for all of your comments, plusses, and support of my work. It means a whole lot to me.

Special thanks go out to +Charles C. Dowd for answering a tech question from an internet stranger today and helping me to FINALLY make this happen. You have a good heart, sir.
Patreon is empowering a new generation of creators. Support and engage with artists and creators as they live out their passions!
9 comments on original post
6
H.N. James's profile photoGregory Lynn's profile photo
2 comments
 
We're all Cylons.
Add a comment...

Gregory Lynn

Shared publicly  - 
 
So I decided to get a bit ranty about the whole Clean Reader thing.

Spoiler alert, I think the mindset behind the idea is terrible.

Also, I use the N word here in a reference to Huckleberry Finn to point out that changing words changes the story.

#CleanReader  
The fact of the matter is, you've already lost, you just don't know it yet. Let's be perfectly clear. The mindset behind an app that cleans the naughty words from books is the same as the mindset behind climate change denial and pray-away-the-gay programs. It assumes that if you just pretend ...
8
1
Gregory Lynn's profile photoMac Vogt's profile photoJohn Ward's profile photoLisa “LJ” Cohen's profile photo
21 comments
 
The only way to get around it is to read the dedicated feeds at the individual circle level.
Add a comment...
People
Have him in circles
16,600 people
roberta graf's profile photo
Joseph Nichols's profile photo
knhsoftball99's profile photo
Som Rana's profile photo
Daniel Branch's profile photo
Josh Drake's profile photo
Skittleslove234's profile photo
Greg Utterback's profile photo
Riley Carr's profile photo
Education
  • Boston College
    History
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Birthday
December 25
Relationship
Married
Story
Tagline
I write stuff. Maybe you'll like it.
Introduction
In first grade, my teacher asked the kids to vote on what book she was going to read to us during story time. I raised my hand for one thing. The entire rest of the class raised their hand for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

I have been holding minority opinions and reading fantasy stories ever since.
Bragging rights
I survived the Blizzard of '78 with the most awesome snow forts ever.
Work
Occupation
Storyteller
Employment
  • writing silly stories about serious things.
    present
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Wayland, MA - Brockton, MA - Kingston, MA - Kershaw, SC - Helena, MT - Waltham, MA
Contact Information
Home
Email
Gregory Lynn's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
Indispensable Writing Books | Tales From The Mad Monk
tftmm.com

I'm going to be starting something new here. When I decided to give this whole writing thing a try, the first thing I did was start reading

Dear #CleanReader, You’ve Just Declared War on Every Writer In the World...
tftmm.com

The fact of the matter is, you've already lost, you just don't know it yet. Let's be perfectly clear. The mindset behind an app that cleans

If You Don’t Like My Opinions, You Should Not Buy My Books | Tales From ...
tftmm.com

There is a thing going about the internet today—a couple snippets from a publication of the Romance Writers of America—saying that writers s

Women On 20s
www.womenon20s.org

Women On 20s aims to compel historic change by convincing President Obama that NOW is the time to put a woman's face on our paper currency.

I Think I Just Fell In Love With The Librarians | Tales From The Mad Monk
tftmm.com

So there were two episodes last night, and in the first one, they all show up on their day off and next thing you know, there's a problem at

The Hilarious Way Captain America Will Be Part Of Agent Carter
io9.com

Even though Agent Carter (debuting this Tuesday) is set after the first Captain America movie, while he's frozen somewhere in the Arctic oce

Rosemary Valero-O'Connell Comics + Illustration
hirosemary.com

If Only Once, If Only For A Little While is a comic about loss, coping, and the ways we deal with grief. It was completed over the course of

Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You
www.huffingtonpost.com

You've heard that using screens before bedtime can mess with your sleep, but new research suggests the problem is even more serious. Reading

I Love the NYPD’s New Protest
freethoughtblogs.com

Thoughts from the interface of science, religion, law and culture

The saddest thing I’ve read today
freethoughtblogs.com

Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal

A Sportswriting Christmas Story
joeposnanski.com

The boy sat on a city bus at the end of another semester, Christmas approached, and he stared out the window and watched people talking and

Hey Look, It’s #NaNoWriMo | Tales From The Mad Monk
tftmm.com

Yeah, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, which doesn't mean it isn't awesome and doesn't mean I won't be writing. It actually means I will b

The Percy Jackson Problem - The New Yorker
www.newyorker.com

Unlike the Harry Potter books, which are beloved by adult readers, Rick Riordan’s retellings of Greek myths seem designed to repel grownups

Unknown Mathematician Proves Elusive Property of Prime Numbers | WIRED
www.wired.com

An unknown mathematician, Yitang Zhang, has revolutionized his field and helped move forward a 2,000-year-old conjecture about prime numbers

163. KEVIN SMITH: It costs nothing to encourage an artist
zenpencils.com

RELATED COMICS: Roger Ebert – On Kindness. Stanley Kubrick Answers a Question. Neil Gaiman – Make Good Art. Shonda Rhimes – A Screenwriter's

The Split
www.si.com

Twenty-five years after Donnie Moore's death, it's time to dispel the myth that the pitcher killed himself because of a playoff home run. Th

Why the Trolls Will Always Win | WIRED
www.wired.com

Editors’ Note: This post was first published on Kathy Sierra’s blog SeriousPony. We are republishing it here unedited and in its entirety wi

Three reasons you should read The Minus Faction: Breakout by @StrangeJun...
tftmm.com

Three Reasons You Should Read The Minus Faction: Breakout by Rick Wayne. The Protagonist. The Pace. The Secrets.

10 Things That Have Me Conflicted About #AgentsOfShield » Tales From The...
tftmm.com

I was one of those people who loved Agents of Shield from the beginning. It wasn't entirely free from criticism, but the criticism I read se

What #Gotham Got Right » Tales From The Mad Monk
tftmm.com

A series premiere has to be a pain in the ass to write, especially when it's in a universe that people already know. You can't just tell a s