Ernest Hemingway on effective writing

I couldn’t refer to authors’ rules on effective writing without mentioning my favourite writer and his perspective on what makes great writing. Ernest Hemingway wrote a lot about writing.


Here’s a few rules from the Master on what it takes to write well.

  1. Use short sentences and short first paragraphs.
  2. Use vigorous English – passion, focus and intention.
  3. Be positive, not negative.
  4. Spend time to edit and rewrite. (“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”)


Joanna Young of the blog The Confident Writing Coach catalogued 27 gems from Hemingway on the art of writing.

Here Is Young’s list of Hemingway’s advice to writers:

1 Start with the simplest things

2 Boil it down

3 Know what to leave out

4 Write the tip of the ice-berg, leave the rest under the water

5 Watch what happens today

6 Write what you see

7 Listen completely

8 Write when there is something you know, and not before

9 Look at words as if seeing them for the first time

10 Use the most conventional punctuation you can

11 Ditch the dictionary

12 Distrust adjectives

13 Learn to write a simple declarative sentence

14 Tell a story in six words

15 Write poetry into prose

16 Read everything so you know what you need to beat

17 Don’t try to beat Shakespeare

18 Accept that writing is something you can never do as well as it can be done

19 Go fishing in summer

20 Don’t drink when you’re writing

21 Finish what you start

22 Don’t worry. You’ve written before and you will write again

23 Forget posterity. Think only of writing truly

24 Write as well as you can with no eye on the market

25 Write clearly – and people will know if you are being true

26 Just write the truest sentence that you know

27 Remember that nobody really knows or understands the secret


Joanna Young’s blog entry is here:



Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer or experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

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