C.S. Lewis Best Writing Advice

His advice? Write by ear not by eye.

My son, Forrest, shot me this quote which affirms what I’ve been teaching for years:

You are too fond of long adverbs like “dignifiedly”, which are not nice to pronounce. I hope, by the way, you always write by ear not by eye. Every sentence shd be tested on the tongue, to make sure that the sound of it has the hardness or softness, the swiftness or languor, which the meaning of it calls for.
 -C.S. Lewis, from his ‘Letters’

I didn’t know Lewis had pointed this out, but having grappled through the decades (especially as an English Literature major), I came to the conclusion before I found the evidence. I think the reason is that

(1) It’s obvious, and 

(2) It’s impossible to find one’s voice with ‘rules’Please, have your kids read their works aloud to you and make corrections based on how they want it to sound when read. I’m not saying speaking is writing, but I am saying language is musical and instinctive. Your child can make a wonderful writing life if you will insist that they follow Lewis’s instruction to WRITE BY EAR.

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