A.Q. Mowbray on Writing

There is no law, so far as we know, that says a man must use short words when he talks and long ones when he writes. Nor is there a rule to force us to seek out the big word when our thoughts run deep. In fact, when the urge to tell burns in us, we turn to the short word. When we swear, we slash and bruise with the sharp, curt word. When we pray, our souls soar on wings of light, brief words. When we love, the sweet, spare words pierce straight to the heart. When we urge or drive, the words are pruned and clipped; they dart to the mind in one clean stroke. The long words bounce off the shell, weight us to the ground, probe in vain for the path to the heart or to the mind.

Each man who takes his pen in hand to tell his peers what he has thought or done should make this pledge: “I swear that what I write will speak to men in words that they can seize and hold. I will shun the blunt, stiff, thick words that clot the brain and turn clear minds to sour ooze. I will cleave to the keen, terse, brisk words that bear true to the mark and shed a pure gleam in the dark. My one aim will be to see that those who scan my words can read my thought.”

A.Q. Mowbray, from “Materials Research and Standards,” vol. 1, no. 6