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Drawn and Quoted: Classic One-Liners on PR, Writing, Editing and Literary Criticism

In preparing for a speech or thinking of adding a touch of humor to an article, I used to sit in front of a blank screen (or piece of typewriter paper in bygone days) and rummage through the sometimes dim corners of the attic of my mind in hopes of finding a forgotten gem or two. I started collecting favorites in a file for easier and more accurate recall.

The file has grown to more than 60 pages. I pulled it up over the weekend to stir the senses as I worked on a piece on how to improve PR writing for PRSA Tactics. I pulled out some classics on PR, writing, literary criticism and editing that might stimulate a chuckle or two (or maybe not!).

PR, Advertising, Marketing

There is nothing so futile as having the right ideas and getting no attention. – John Kenneth Galbraith

You cannot bore people into buying your product. You must interest them into buying it. You cannot save souls in an empty church. – David Ogilvy 

I honestly believe that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. – Jerry Della Femina


I love being a writer. What I hate is the paperwork. – Peter de Vries

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it. – Russell Lynes

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach’s ‘St. Matthew’s Passion’ on a ukulele. – Bagdikian’s Observation

My father has spent the best years of his life writing his extemporaneous speeches. – Randolph Churchill on Winston Churchill

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. – An English Professor, Ohio University

Literary Criticism, Guidance

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. – W. Somerset Maugham

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it. – Groucho Marx

Where facts are few, experts are many. – Donald R. Gannon

There are grammatical errors even in his silence. – Stanislaw J. Lec

The covers of this book are too far apart. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary. – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy. – James Thurber

Editing Tips

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: Resist hyperbole. – Anon

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will suffice. – Anon

Eschew Obfuscation. – Anon

Avoid awkward or affected alliteration. – Anon

Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague. – Anon

I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up. – Tom Lehrer

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