It is true. The best tools writers have for educating themselves in the craft of writing are the writing of others.
This week I was wowed by an article by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. on Books and Culture , entitled, “Tuning the Preacher’s Ear: How good reading helps preaching.” Plantinga argues that reading fine authors and listening to great speakers “will tune the preacher’s ear for language, which is his first tool” Ours too! As Plantinga went on to outline the many ways reading is of benefit to a preacher, I was struck by just how applicable his arguments were for writers as well.
“From the masters of language the preacher can learn conciseness, rhythm, euphony, and rhetorical devices such as consonance. He can learn to change up his sentence length and sentence functions.”
“From fine writers the preacher can learn one skill that lies beneath all the others. I mean diction.”
Planginga’s definition of diction includes not only pronunciation, but also word choice and, he states, “from the masters of it blessings flow.”
Plantinga details the two advantages of good diction:
“it lets the preacher choose his rhetorical register, whether highbrow or lowbrow; and…gives our preacher a whole world of power and beauty opened up by the evocativeness of the words he chooses.”
From reading and listening to high quality material, Plantinga concludes, the preacher, and the writer, I might add, can absorb “excellent language, even if unconsciously. He’s like an articulate child from a family of articulate speakers.” May we train our minds and ears, and our students’, so we can write like that.