Never assume the obvious is true.

— William Safire

The most revealing William Safire quotes that will activate your inner potential

Nobody stands taller than those willing to stand corrected.

55

To be accused of 'channeling' is to be dismissed as a ventriloquist's live dummy, derogated at not having a mind of one's own.

48

When articulation is impossible, gesticulation comes to the rescue.

29

As long as one American is hungry... then we have unfinished business in this country.

24

The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.

21

Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.

19

The Latin motto over Poindexter's new Pentagon office reads Scientia Est Potentia - "knowledge is power." Exactly: the government's infinite knowledge about you is its power over you.

14

After eating, an epicure gives a thin smile of satisfaction;

a gastronome, burping into his napkin, praises the food in a magazine; a gourmet, repressing his burp, criticizes the food in the same magazine; a gourmand belches happily and tells everybody where he ate; a glutton empraces the white porcelain alter, or more plainly, he barfs.

14

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

13

Sir Alec Douglas-Home, when he was British Foreign Secretary, said he received the following telegram from an irate citizen: "To hell with you. Offensive letter follows."

12

A man who lies, thinking it is the truth, is an honest man, and a man who tells the truth, believing it to be a lie, is a liar.

12

If you re-read your work, you can find on re-reading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing.

12

About William Safire

Quotes 92 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Author
Birthday October 16

Writers who used to show off their erudition no longer sing in the bare ruined choir of the media.

12

Remember to never split an infinitive.

The passive voice should never be used. Do not put statements in the negative form. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. And don't start a sentence with a conjugation.

11

Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care.

7

Adjective salad is delicious, with each element contributing its individual and unique flavor; but a puree of adjective soup tastes yecchy.

7

Sometimes I know the meaning of a word but am tired of it and feel the need for an unfamiliar, especially precise or poetic term, perhaps one with a nuance that flatters my readership's exquisite sensitivity.

6

The perfect Christmas gift for a sportscaster, as all fans of sports clichés know, is a scoreless tie.

5

In lieu of those checks and balances central to our legal system, non-citizens face an executive that is now investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer or executioner. In an Orwellian twist, Bush's order calls this Soviet-style abomination 'a full and fair trial.'

5

Give your main clause a little space.

Prose is not like boxing; the skilled writer deliberately telegraphs his punch, knowing that the reader wants to take the message directly on the chin.

4

Gridlock is great. My motto is, 'Don't just do something. Stand there.'

4

Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.

4

Avoid overuse of 'quotation “marks.”'

4

Adapt your style, if you wish, to admit the color of slang or freshness of neologism, but hang tough on clarity, precision, structure, grace.

3

Do not be taken in by 'insiderisms.' Fledgling columnists, eager to impress readers with their grasp of journalistic jargon, are drawn to such arcane spellings as 'lede.' Where they lede, do not follow.

3

... it's Bush's baby, even if he shares its popularization with Gorbachev. Forget the Hitler 'new order' root; F.D.R. used the phrase earlier.

3

It behooves us to avoid archaisms. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

3

Never put the story in the lead. Let 'em have a hot shot of ambiguity right between the eyes.

3

One difference between French appeasement and American appeasement is that France pays ransom in cash and gets its hostages back while the United States pays ransom in arms and gets additional hostages taken.

2

The remarkable legion of the unremarked, whose individual opinions are not colorful or different enough to make news, but whose collective opinion, when crystallized, can make history.

2

Decide on some imperfect Somebody and you will win, because the truest truism in politics is: You can't beat Somebody with Nobody.

1

The first ladyship is the only federal office in which the holder can neither be fired nor impeached.

0

At a certain point, what people mean when they use a word becomes its meaning.

0

A dependent clause is like a dependent child: incapable of standing on its own but able to cause a lot of trouble.

0

You don't want lopsided government. You don't want one side running roughshod over the other.

0

I welcome new words, or old words used in new ways, provided the result is more precision, added color or greater expressiveness.

0

Your column is a pack of damn lies, a reader wrote to William Safire about a political piece he did in the New York Times.Brushing aside the stern criticism, Safire immediately debated whether it should be damn, the way it sounds, or damned, as the past participle of the verb, to damn. The ed on some words is simply slipping away, he points out. We're seeing more barbecue chicken, whip cream and corn beef. His conclusion: Ears are sloppy and eyes are precise; accordingly, speech can be loose but writing should be tight.

0

To communicate, put your words in order;

give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce.

0

This is what it's all about. From what I could see, you could get a bunch of people together, whip up the press and have some impact.

0

The trick is to start early in our careers the stress-relieving avocation that we will need later as a mind-exercising final vocation. We can quit a job, but we quit fresh involvement at our mental peril.

0

I could get a better education interviewing John Steinbeck than talking to an English professor about novels.

0

I want my questions answered by an alert and experienced politician, prepared to be grilled and quoted -- not my hand held by an old smoothie.

0

A book should have an intellectual shape and a heft that comes with dealing with a primary subject.

0

I'm a right-wing pundit and have been for many years.

0

We are all environmentalists now, but we are not all planetists.

An environmentalist realizes that nature has its pleasures and deserves respect. A planetist puts the earth ahead of the earthlings.

0

I think we have a need to know what we do not need to know.

0

Better to be a jerk that knees than a knee that jerks.

0

Never look for the story in the 'lede.

' Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.

0

When your government, employer, landlord, merchant, banker and local sports team gang up to picture, digitize and permanently record your every activity, you are placed under unprecedented control.

0
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