Writing Advice from Kurt Vonnegut and 3 Other Writers

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In the 1980s, a group of great thinkers, authors and communicators penned a series of How To's for honing one's writing skills. The source of these amazing troves of advice was an ad campaign put out by a paper company.

“Today the printed word is more vital than ever," read a box at the bottom of each full-spread advertorial. "Now there is more need than ever for all of us to read better, write better and communicate better. International Paper offers this new series in the hope that, even in a small way, we can help." And sure, International Paper probably also offered that new series in the hopes that, even in a small way, it set them apart from their competitors and inspired you to purchase their paper. But that doesn't diminish the value and insight contained in the following. In fact, these days, you can buy a compilation of all the ads in paperback form.

1. Kurt Vonnegut on how to write with style

via The Paris Review Tumblr. Click to enlarge.

Tips include "find a subject you care about" and "have the guts to cut."

2. George Plimpton on how to make a speech

via PaperSpecs [PDF]. Click to enlarge.

He gives advice for how to plan what you say and how to sound spontaneous.

3. John Irving on how to spell

via PaperSpecs [PDF]. Click to enlarge.

"You must remember that it is permissible for spelling to drive you crazy," the author of The World According to Garp wrote. "Spelling had this effect on Andrew Jackson ... when you have trouble, think of poor Andrew Jackson and know you're not alone."

4. President and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine Malcolm Forbes on how to write a business letter

via PaperSpecs [PDF]. Click to enlarge.

Address the person you're writing to by name. Spell it right. Don't put on airs or exaggerate! And other tips from the editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine.