Quotes on creative copy

What writers and others say

Quotes on creative copy

Image by Patrick Fore

“My purpose is to make what I write entertaining enough to compete with beer.”
— Anonymous

“When Howard Hughes was involved in writing a historical epic, his newest assistant questioned the veracity of a particular scene which contained a historical error. When the assistant offered to verify the detail, Hughes replied emphatically, ‘Never check an interesting fact.'”
— Anonymous

“No one ever lost credibility by being interesting.”
— Tom Antion, humorist

“Hit them in the heart and hit them in the head.”
— Ron Arden, known as the “guru of speech coaches” and author of The Power of Charm: How to Win Anyone over in Any Situation

“When you’re a sportswriter, you learn how to use your imagination and to flex your literary muscle, because it’s the same game played over and over again. There’s nothing unique or marvelous. It’s not an earthquake, or a weird mass murder. It’s just the same old game played over and over, and you have to bring out the personalities. You have to drag them kicking and screaming out into the light of day, or you’re not a good sportswriter.”
— Rick Bragg,
 Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, formerly with The New York Times

“Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”
— Truman Capote, American author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“Just because it’s interesting and riveting doesn’t make it false. Just because it’s dull and boring doesn’t make it true.”
— Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar, The Poynter Institute

“When the news or topic is most serious, understate. When the topic is least serious, exaggerate.”
— Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar, The Poynter Institute

“I never intended to make art.”
— Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland

“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, philosopher, lecturer and essayist

“Lemme tell you something, kid. You gotta grab the reader by the throat. He’s on the train. It’s hot. He’s trying to hit on his secretary; she’s not giving him the time of day. His wife is mad at him. His kid needs braces; he doesn’t have the money. The guy next to him stinks. It’s crowded. You want him to read your story? You had better make it interesting.”
— Donald H. Forst, editor of the Village Voice, recalling advice given to him by a former editor of the New York Post

“I hate forcing creativity. It seems rude.”
— Kenya Freeman, contestant on Project Runway

“Writers have nanoseconds to compel readers before they flit to another headline or toast another Pop Tart.”
— David A. Fryxell, former editor, Writers Digest

“People still read, and they will read deeply into a story, if the content interests them. For years, I have said that the “Harry Potter phenomenon” is testimony to the fact that one will read a good story. The average Harry Potter installment is nearly 600 pages, and 14-year-olds worldwide devour it in days.”
— Mario Garcia, CEO and founder of Garcia Media and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board

“Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.”
— Gail Godwin, American novelist and short story writer

“Nobody reads advertising; people read what interests them. And sometimes it’s an ad.”
— Howard Gossage, advertising innovator
“If they can’t repeat it, they didn’t get it.”
— Sam Horn, author, POP! Stand Out In Any Crowd

“Give readers pleasure with knowledge.”
— Larry J. Horney, Ph.D., writing coach at Central Newspapers Inc

“Remember, the easiest thing for the reader to do is quit reading.”
— Barney Kilgore, former Wall Street Journal editor, quoted in NoTrain-NoGain.com

“I’ve been drawn to writers unafraid of the first-person singular, willing to think out loud, to experiment with narrative and cadence, bet the pot on a metaphor, take a chance with an argument or a line of inquiry that in other periodicals might be deemed ill-advised, unkempt, overly complex. Whether or not I agree with what was being said didn’t matter as much as the author’s saying it in a way that couldn’t be confused with the mission statement ‘What we stand for: Our Core Beliefs and Values’ produced by the CIA — ‘Objectivity is the substance of intelligence, a deep commitment to the customer in its forms and timing.'”
— Lewis H. Lapham, editor, Harper’s Magazine

“People don’t ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.”
— Robert Keith Leavitt, ad copywriter and nonfiction writer

“You want to be entertained? Go to the circus, please. Do not watch ‘The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.’ We did 30 minutes comparing naturally grown tomatoes to unnaturally grown tomatoes. Don’t ask me why we did it. We did 30 minutes on the Portuguese elections that not even the Portuguese cared about.”
— Jim Lehrer, journalist and host of PBS’s “NewsHour”

“More learning occurs through emotion than through intellect.”
— C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia

“Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.”
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author and pioneering American aviator

“My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.”
— John D. McDonald, American mystery writer

“Thanks to Sesame Street, people expect to be entertained while educated.”
— Scott McKain, chairman, McKain Performance Group

“Emotion precedes economics.”
— Scott McKain, chairman, McKain Performance Group

“Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.”
— Marshall McLuhan, communication theorist

“If nobody hears your strategic messaging, does it make a sound?”
— David Murray, editor, Lawrence Ragan Communications Inc.

“If you bring your messages to the table on a silver platter rather than in a paper bag, you’ll give your message and your organization greater esteem, credibility and attention.”
— Celine Richter, corporate communicator, Covenant Health

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
— David Ogilvy, “The Father of Advertising”

“Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second and hold him against the wall until the tag line.”
— Paul O’Neil, journalist and author who spent most of his career working for Time Inc.

“The world is full of ordinary writers. Be original.”
— Gene Patterson, retired chief executive officer of the Times Publishing Company and chairman of The Poynter Institute

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
— Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist and painter

“The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock — shock is a worn-out word — but astonish. The world has no grounds whatever for complacency.”
— Terry Southern, U.S. film writer and satirist whose screenplays included Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider

“Mrs. Tinker never read past the third headline of a report unless it happened to be a murder, in which case she read every word and bought an evening paper for herself on the way home.”
— Josephine Tey, author, in The Daughter of Time

“People remember what they feel, not what they know.”
— Al Tompkins, broadcast/online group leader, The Poynter Institute

“You’ve got to be a good date for the reader.”
— Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist, author of Slaughterhouse-Five and other black comedies
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