Tag Archives: Letters to Children

“A piece of advice” by C.S. Lewis

“Oh–I’d nearly forgotten–I have one other piece of advice. Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do.

(1) Things we ought to do

(2) Things we’ve got to do

(3) Things we like doing.

I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them.

Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping.

Things one likes doing–but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.

Of course I always mention you in my prayers and will most especially on Saturday. Do the same for me.

Your affectionate godfather,

C.S. Lewis

Magdalen College
Oxford
April 3, 1949″

–C.S. Lewis, “To Sarah” in C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children, (New York: Touchstone, 1985), 27.

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“Writing advice for children” by C.S. Lewis

“What really matter is:

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘More people died’ don’t say ‘Mortality rose.’

4. In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers: ‘Please will you do my job for me.’

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

With love,

C.S. Lewis.”

–C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 64. In this letter written on June 26, 1956, Lewis was responding to a child who wanted advice about writing.

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