Mark Twain is famous the English-speaking world over for his witty quotes about life. As for writing advice, he gave plenty of that too. Here’s our top five favourite Twain quotes about writing.

1. “As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.”

Twain felt there was no virtue in overly flowery, descriptive prose. While everyone has a unique style, using more adjectives than necessary likely won’t improve the quality of the story. Quality over quantity when it comes to writing, particularly when writing for language learners.

2. “The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.”

This is where the short story really shines. Twain presses writers to be more clear, concise and brief when writing. You could cut pages and pages down to one, clearly written paragraph. If you’re struggling, start with the long version and figure out just what you can omit or change without changing the point.

3. “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

Choosing the right words for what you mean in a piece of writing is essential. For language learners, using the right words often means using simple words. The more standard and mainstream the word, the better they will learn the most important parts of the language. 

4. “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

The art of showing, not telling, is a straightforward concept but difficult to accomplish. Describe a scene as if it were happening right in front of you. It will make your writing far more interesting.

5. “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very.” Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

This quote is our favourite (although beware, yes we will edit it out!). Often, we as writers do not even realise when we fall into the same linguistic patterns over and over. Doing an exercise like this can highlight some of your patterns so that you can approach your writing more in a more diverse way.

Want more Mark Twain writing love? Check out this blog.