A comment found in this insightful and, in some ways, very sad piece, “On Being Spat Upon – Literally – By Christopher Hitchens”.
There are many thoughts that this incites, but my focus here is on one of the anonymous commentators, ChiefRock:
That is some very terrible writing you have there, Mr. Zirin (and I use the title “mister” loosely). Mr. Hitchens may have been a terrible person but at least he wasn’t a terrible writer.
In response to Mr. ChiefRock, I give Mr. Zirin an unlikely ally, the late Mr. Hitchens, by quoting from “Unspoken Truths”, one of his last articles, one that avoids all his later politics, and, perhaps not coincidentally with this, a sound and good one:
To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: “How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?” That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions.