Writer’s Guide

The goal of the editor of Ordained Servant is to develop a pool of excellent writers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This means we all have to work hard at improving—word by word, sentence by sentence. I'm still working at it myself, so take heart.

I recommend the following reading to help improve your craft: William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, and William Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Don't miss the article by George Orwell, originally published in 1946, after he had witnessed the power and degradation of language by the Third Reich, "Politics and the English language." Ministers of the Word should, in my estimation, be passionate wordsmiths—lovers of the English language. Language is the soil of thought. As with all soil it must be cultivated in order to be productive of a good yield.

I have set a 3,000 to 3,500 word limit as an average. 4,000 will normally be an outer limit. On occasion I will consider a two part article that will be published in two installments. In my experience conciseness is a rare virtue among ministers. If brevity is the soul of wit we tend to be a witless bunch when it comes to writing. Brevity gives soul to good writing. The classic on this subject is The Elements of Style, cited above. It is itself a model of clarity—and brevity (it is 78 pages long); "make every word tell" is a chief dictum of Strunk. Cut, cut, and cut some more. So stop now, review your work, and go back and cut ruthlessly. "Brevity is a by-product of vigor." Then you may find that you say what you said in 5,000 words much more effectively in 4,000.

I hope to continue developing the resources in this brief guide as the ministry of Ordained Servant grows. So stay tuned.


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