Kurt Vonnegut on How to Write with Style


Kurt Vonnegut is beloved for creating some of America’s best fiction. He should be equally well-known for his generous advice to writers. In 1985, he wrote “How to Write with Style,” excerpted and discussed in detail (and with her unique passion and insight) by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

Vonnegut begins his essay addressing something that blog writers might struggle with – how much of ourselves to reveal in our writing.

“Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writing. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.”

He follows with eight rules of great writing that combine technical skill with love and respect for the reader. If I could accomplish those two goals in my writing, I’d feel like I put in a good day’s work.

Enjoy How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word on Brain Pickings. He shares advice and insights for fiction writers, too: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story.

P.S. Dallas people – does anyone else remember seeing Vonnegut’s presentation in the lobby of the Dallas Infomart? If so, do you remember what he was talking about? I’m wondering if it was this same essay, which was written in 1985, the year the Infomart opened. I can’t find any reference to that talk online, but I know I saw him there, and of course he was fantastic.

Kim Schlossberg
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Kim Schlossberg created Kim Schlossberg Designs to help businesses and non-profits refine their messages and get them out to the right audience, in a clear, consistent, and integrated way. She provides strategic planning, execution and coordination of marketing, branding, and design by developing a deep understanding of clients’ businesses and their goals, and serves as a trusted advisor to help them grow their businesses and brand. Kim speaks to business and non-profit groups about marketing and related topics, and publishes a well-received (but slightly irregular) newsletter.

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