Friday, December 15, 2006

The Scissors or the Pen?

During one of my recent recent writing courses, a participant, Luis LaSalvia said, “The scissors are mightier than the pen.” Dr. LaSalvia (he has M.D. and M.B.A. degrees) cleverly adapted the better-known quote by the English writer Baron Lytton, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” to highlight the need for thorough editing. As a key member of the Bayer Health Care Diagnostics Division for Scientific Affairs in North America, Dr. LaSalvia is keen on using language to foster clear communication. Since I share his motivation, he will get no argument from me on this point.

But a lesser-known yet preferable aphorism prefers creativity to criticism. Attributed to the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, it goes something like this: “To err is human, but when the pencil's eraser wears out before the lead, you’re overdoing it.” I could not agree more, and I’d bet that Dr. LaSalvia also would agree with this wisdom.

What’s the point? Don’t let your high critical standards get in the way of your creative streak. Keep writing—and then return to edit.

To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here: