EB White Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

EB White quotes on writing
by CJ McDaniel // April 22 // 0 Comments

Have you ever read the book or watched the movie “Stuart Little” and “Charlotte’s Web”? The person behind these two children’s classics was writer, poet, and essayist E.B. White. White’s writings, ranging from satire to textbooks to children’s fiction, appealed to readers of all ages. Writers, professional and non-professional, are no exception, as they make White their inspiration from time to time. They’re not mistaken. EB White’s quotes on writing, extracted from his books, columns, essays, and poems, are an incredible source of motivation, regardless if you’re a reader or a writer.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York, on July 11, 1899, American author Elwyn Brooks White had a lasting influence on generations of readers and writers. Apart from being a children’s writer, he was also an essayist, poet, columnist, and literary stylist, whose works attracted all ages. His direct, economical writing style and friendly humor made his writings appealing while establishing their intellectual and cosmopolitan tone. Hence, he remains one of the most influential modern American essayists and writers.

White was more than just the author of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” He was also a contributor to “The New Yorker,” even co-authoring “The Elements of Style,” which became a standard style manual for generations of writers. Although it’s impossible to write masterpieces like White, his writings and words of wisdom are excellent sources of inspiration. Undeniably influential, EB White’s quotes on writing will benefit many people, writer or not.

EB White Quotes About Writing

American writer and children’s classics author E.B. White came into the limelight for his well-loved children’s books like “Stuart Little,” “The Trumpet of the Swan,” and “Charlotte’s Web.” However, writing was already part of his life even before his great success. He was a writer and contributing editor for The New Yorker magazine, writing numerous poems and essays during his career. Moreover, his passion and brilliance in his craft were never left unnoticed. He earned a Pulitzer Prize special citation, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Medal for Literature.

EB White’s excellence and achievements are more than enough for readers and writers to rely on him for quotes about writing. If that’s what you’re here for, feast your eyes on the collection below!

I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.

EB White

Writing is both mask and unveiling.

EB White

Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays

EB White

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.

EB White

Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.

EB White

Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…. Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.

EB White

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.

EB White

Life is like writing with a pen. You can cross out your past but you can’t erase it.

EB White

Writing is hard work and bad for the health.

EB White

The best writing is rewriting.

EB White

As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly and unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost.

EB White

Use the smallest word that does the job.

EB White

The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest.

EB White

Don’t write about Man; write about a man.

EB White

All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation-it is the Self-escaping into the open.

EB White

When a man hangs from a tree it doesn’t spell justice unless he helped write the law that hanged him.

EB White

I have no warm up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink.

EB White

Shocking writing is like murder: the questions the jury must decide are the questions of motive and intent.

EB White

Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject.

EB White

In dialogue, make sure that your attributives do not awkwardly interrupt a spoken sentence. Place them where the breath would come naturally in speech-that is, where the speaker would pause for emphasis, or take a breath. The best test for locating an attributive is to speak the sentence aloud.

EB White

Commas in The New Yorker fall with the precision of knives in a circus act, outlining the victim.

EB White

Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?” “Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” “What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle-it’s just a web.” “Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.

EB White

All we need is a meteorologist who has once been soaked to the skin without ill effect. No one can write knowingly of the weather who walks bent over on wet days.

EB White

Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine. How’s this?” he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. It says ‘Crunchy.’ ‘Crunchy’ would be a good word to write in your web.” Just the wrong idea,” replied Charlotte. “Couldn’t be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qualities, not his tastiness.

EB White

A schoolchild should be taught grammar – for the same reason that a medical student should study anatomy. Having learned about the exciting mysteries of an English sentence, the child can then go forth and speak and write any damn way he pleases.

EB White

The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. Because I have the greatest respect for the reader, and if he’s going to the trouble of reading what I’ve written — I’m a slow reader myself and I guess most people are — why, the least I can do is make it as easy as possible for him to find out what I’m trying to say, trying to get at. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.

EB White

Although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one.

EB White

I discovered a long time ago that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the heart, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace. As a reporter, I was a flop, because I always came back laden not with facts about the case, but with a mind full of the little difficulties and amusements I had encountered in my travels.

EB White

Thurber did not write the way a surgeon operates, he wrote the way a child skips rope, the way a mouse waltzes.

EB White

The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest. He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work, just as people who enjoy bird walks enjoys theirs. Each new excursion of the essayist, each new ‘attempt,’ differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.

EB White

The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.

EB White

There is no trick to it. If you like to write and want to write, you write, no matter where you are or what else you are doing or whether anyone pays any heed.

EB White

Writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too.

EB White

Of course, it may be that the arts of writing and photography are antithetical. The hope and aim of a word-handler is that he maycommunicate a thought or an impression to his reader without the reader’s realizing that he has been dragged through a series of hazardous or grotesque syntactical situations. In photography the goal seems to be to prove beyond a doubt that the cameraman, in his great moment of creation, was either hanging by his heels from the rafters or was wedged under the floor with his lens in a knothole.

EB White

My prose style at this time was a stomach-twisting blend of the Bible, Carl Sandburg, H.L. Mencken, Jeffrey Farnol, Christopher Morley, Samuel Pepys, and Franklin Pierce Adams imitating Samuel Pepys. I was quite apt to throw in a “bless the mark” at any spot, and to begin a sentence with “Lord” comma.

EB White

Place yourself in the background; write in a way that comes naturally; work from a suitable design; write with nouns and verbs; do not overwrite; do not overstate; avoid the use of qualifiers; do not affect a breezy style; use orthodox spelling; do not explain too much; avoid fancy words; do not take shortcuts as the cost of clarity; prefer the standard to the offbeat; make sure the reader knows who is speaking; do not use dialect; revise and rewrite.

EB White

I always write a thing first and think about it afterward, which is not a bad procedure because the easiest way to have consequential thoughts is to start putting them down.

EB White

EB White Quotes On Writers

White started as a reporter and freelance writer before becoming a celebrated writer of books for children. Then, he joined The New Yorker magazine, writing poems, cartoon captions, and brief sketches for the literary publication. Aside from that, he revised an earlier work, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr., which soon became a well-known book containing valuable advice for generations of writers. Hence, you’ll learn a lot from White, especially if you’re a budding or professional writer.

Apart from his quotes about writing, you’ll enjoy EB White’s words on writers on the following list.

There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.

EB White

Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

EB White

A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. … A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy: true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down.

EB White

There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.

EB White

Advice to young writers wo want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.

EB White

An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write.

EB White

In a sense the world dies every time a writer dies, because, if he is any good, he has been a wet nurse to humanity during his entire existence and has held earth close around him, like the little obstetrical toad that goes about with a cluster of eggs attached to his legs.

EB White

A man who publishes his letters becomes a nudist – nothing shields him from the world’s gaze except his bare skin. A writer, writing away, can always fix things up to make himself more presentable, but a man who has written a letter is stuck with it for all time.

EB White

I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend – to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit.

EB White

The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.

EB White

I have just been refining the room in which I sit, yet I sometimes doubt that a writer should refine or improve his workroom by so much as a dictionary: one thing leads to another and the first thing you know he has a stuffed chair and is fast asleep in it.

EB White

In the nature of things, a person engaged in the flimsy business of expressing himself on paper is dependent on the large general privilege of being heard. Any intimation that this privilege may be revoked throws a writer into panic.

EB White

A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.

EB White

I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that doesn’t have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular, although many men are born upright.

EB White

Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along.

EB White

EB White Quotes About Books

It’s almost natural for any writer to share their perspective about books. Although White shied away from publicity, his quotes about books became known for a purpose: for people to love and value books. The following list may not be as many as the previous ones. However, it’s still a valuable collection for readers and writers alike.

Being the owner of Dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the Dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a Dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.

EB White

All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.

EB White

In order to read one must sit down, usually indoors. I am restless and would rather sail a boat than crack a book. I’ve never had a very lively literary curiosity, and it has sometimes seemed to me that I am not really a literary fellow at all. Except that I write for a living.

EB White

Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together-just the two of you.

EB White

A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people—people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.

EB White

All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.

EB White

EB White Quotes About Dreams

If you’re wondering what EB White and his writings have to say about dreams, the collection of quotes below is what you need. There aren’t many in this list, but it’ll give you an idea of what White thinks about dreams. Readers and writers alike will find this small collection valuable, even for writing poems or essays.

Write about it by day and dream about it by night.

EB White

I believe in dreams. People should have faith in the songs poets sing.

EB White

There is a period near the beginning of every man’s life when he has little to cling to except his unmanageable dream, little to support him except good health, and nowhere to go but all over the place.

EB White

E.B. White’s relevance remains untouched even years after the publication of his works. He communicates his thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely, helping establish his reputation over the years. He was a master of his craft—a legend writers will celebrate generations after generations. If you’re short of inspiration or motivation to continue writing, EB White’s quotes will be an incredible companion.

Do you need more encouragement and ideas on writing other than these quotes from EB White? Check out our selection of quotes on writing from other authors here.

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!