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Published on July 12th, 2006 | by Alex and Brett Harris

How To Become A Better Writer

Brett and I are excited to share the following writing tips from two well-known and well-loved Christian authors: C.S. Lewis and J.I. Packer. Many thanks to Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds for both lists. We know our readers, particularly our fellow rebelutionary bloggers, will benefit from the wisdom of both of these great men.

J.I. Packer on How to Become a Better Writer

At breakfast with Dr. Packer earlier this week, Justin Taylor asked him what advice he would give to someone who wanted to become a better writer. Here are the principles he suggested, based on Mr. Taylor’s notes from their conversation:

1.) Don’t write until you have something to say.

2.) Know your ideal reader, and write with that reader as your focus as if you’re directing all of your thoughts to him.

3.) Remember that there are two sides of the brain: the left and the right. The left is the logical side–monchrome gray. The right side handles grammar, imagination, and pictures–that which gives color to life. The way of wisdom in writing is to use color: nouns, verbs, and adjectives that convey pictures. A good communicator appeals to the whole person–both sides of the brain. C.S. Lewis is a great example of this.

4.) There is a place for long sentences, but a long sentence should be followed by a short one. Use plenty of short sentences that will jump off the page and hit the reader between the eyes. Readers need variety–both long and short sentences–to keep them awake.

C.S. Lewis on How to Become a Better Writer

On June 26, 1956, C. S. Lewis responded to a child’s letter asking for advice on how to become a better writer. Here are the principles Lewis suggested, as taken from the book The Quotable Lewis (1989):

1.) Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2.) Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3.) Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4.) In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.” [Comment: Sounds like “do hard things” for writers!]

5.) Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

For more helpful tips, be sure to check out the post How To Write Good (Like Me) for a humorous look at good writing habits.


About the Author

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

  • Bentley

    These are great, thank you guys! 😀 I especially appreciate points 3 through 5 by C. S. Lewis. I think I tend to fluff my writing a little more than is necessary, especially my creative writing. I have never realized how simply using a descriptive word to tell the reader how a scene ought to feel really does weaken the effect of my writing… I will bear these tips in mind in my future work!


  • Excellent! Really. Those are wonderful points to keep in mind. *looks at sentence* Ok, let me try harder this time — like a rebelu… forget it. If the reader wants to know how I came to that conclusion they have to read up so they can say, “These are amazing points.”

  • The past two days I have read chapters on composition in two major paralegal textbooks. Both set as a standard _The Elements of Style_ by Will Strunk & E.B. White, accessible at

  • Thanks for posting these!

  • These lists are awesome! Thanks!

  • I can clearly see which areas of my writing need improvement. Thank you for sharing this helpful advice!

  • Thanks for the wonderful post! Those are tips that I will try to keep in mind…especially when I start panicking because I feel like I have nothing to write due to “writer’s block”. 😛

  • Thanks for sharing this! I supppose I tend to get stuck in the descriptive word rut at times, instead of actually describing the scene. All good pointers! My favorite has to be “Don’t write until you have something to say.” :-)

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