E. B. White – The Elements of Style (4th ed., 2000)

The question of ear is vital. Only the writer whose ear is reliable is in a position to use bad grammar deliberately; this writer knows for sure when a colloquialism is better than formal phrasing and is able to sustain the work at a level of good taste. So cock your ear.


Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations (1776)

Our merchants and master manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods, both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits; they are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains; they complain only of those of other people.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

No matter what he thought about, he always returned to these same questions which he could not solve and yet could not cease to ask himself. It was as if the thread of the chief screw which held his life together were stripped, so that the screw could not get in or out, but went turning uselessly in the same place.

Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)

“Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. … Morons will occasionally say something that’s right, but they say it for the wrong reason.”

“You mean it’s okay to say something that’s wrong as long as the reason is right.”

“Of course. Why else go to the trouble of being a rational animal?”

“All great apes evolved from lower life forms, man evolved from lower life forms, therefore man is a great ape.”

“Not bad. In such statements you suspect that something’s wrong, but it takes work to show what and why. Morons are tricky. You can spot the fool right away (not to mention the cretin), but the moron reasons almost the way you do; the gap is infinitesimal. A moron is a master of paralogism. For an editor, it’s bad news. It can take him an eternity to identify a moron. Plenty of morons’ books are published, because they’re convincing at first glance.”


Ansel Adams – Examples (1983)

California has a number of simple churches of the Georgian style in the coastal and Sierra foothill areas. They have a plain, stark beauty which, to me, is vastly superior to the contemporary shopping-center-style horrors in which I think God might be embarrassed.


Neil Gaiman – Coraline (2002)

“The world will be built new for you every morning. If you stay here, you can have whatever you want.”

Coraline sighed. “You really don’t understand, do you?” she said. “I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything. What then?”


J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

All that is gold does not glitter,
     Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
     Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
     A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
     The crownless again shall be king.

Bilbo’s verses for Aragorn