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C.S. Lewis’s last interview was on May 7, 1963—six months before he died. Sherwood Wirt (1911-2001) asked for his writing advice: “How would you suggest a young Christian writer go about developing a style?”

Lewis responded:

The way for a person to develop a style is

(a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and

(b) to be sure he is saying exactly that.

The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him.

I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.

—C. S. Lewis, “Cross-Examination,” in C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. Lesley Walmsley (London: HarperCollins, 2000), 555.

This is one of the reasons Lewis is still read today. Agree or disagree with what he’s saying, you don’t have to wonder what he thinks. This blessed clarity and precision is a gift we can emulate.


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6 thoughts on “The Best Writing Advice You Will Hear Today”

  1. Fantastic words from Lewis as ever. The man clearly had a way with words and all who write or speak would do well to learn and apply what we can from him. Thanks for posting this.

  2. As a writer, I’m taken aback newly each time I crack open one of Lewis’s books at his refreshing precision of thought and his logical discipline. His magnetism as a writer, I think, lay in his ability to think clearly and then to convey just that particular line of reason on the page, thought by cogent thought. His editors almost certainly helped with this, but he was able to plow deeply into thoughts and concepts because he didn’t waste time digging extra furrows in the field, as it were. Indeed, he said what he wanted to say, and nothing more or less. And, man, did he have a lot to say.

  3. threegirldad says:

    “Final Interview” can be read in its entirety here (and not just the interview, but also introductory remarks and commentary by Sherwood Wirt).

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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