Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quotations on thinking, speaking and writing (2) – Stephen Sondheim

In his book Finishing the Hat, the great American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (pictured) has this to say about writing and clarity:

There are only three principles necessary for a lyric writer, all of them familiar truisms. They were not immediately apparent to me when I started writing, but have come into focus via Oscar Hammerstein’s tutoring, Strunk and White’s huge little book The Elements of Style and my own sixty-some years of practicing the craft. I have not always been skilled or diligent enough to follow them as faithfully as I would like, but they underlie everything I've ever written. In no particular order, and to be written in stone:

Content Dictates Form

Less is More

God is in the Details

all in the service of:


without which nothing else matters.

The Takeaway: Stephen Sondheim’s “three principles necessary for a lyric writer” are also necessary for a prose writer. Following them will help you write more clearly.

Thanks to Paul Henning, a friend and a clear writer, for pointing out this wonderfully concise bit of wisdom.

See disclaimer.

No comments:

Post a Comment