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preaching article Five Clear Rules for Preaching from C. S. Lewis

Five Clear Rules for Preaching from C. S. Lewis

based on 13 ratings
Jul 7, 2012
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C. S. Lewis once wrote to an American boy with advice on clear writing. It turns out to be excellent advice for pastors on preaching as well:

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 clean 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 things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “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.

(From: Letters to Children, Dorsett & Mead, editors, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1985)



Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His newest book is Deeper Grace, a guide to the connection between grace and spiritual maturity. Ray currently lives in central Kentucky, coaching and consulting church leaders. You can visit his blog at Students of Jesus.

Talk about it...

Chet Gladkowski avatar
Chet Gladkowski
0 days ago
Way to go Ray for bringing these great words to preach, write and communicate by.
Chet Gladkowski avatar
Chet Gladkowski
0 days ago
Way to go Ray for bringing these great words to preach, write and communicate by.
Pastor Sandy . avatar
Pastor Sandy .
0 days ago
Thanks, Ray. Great reminder. And thanks for introducing me to Sarah Bessey (through your Students of Jesus website).
Michael Morton avatar
Michael Morton
0 days ago
Nice article. More people need more exposure to C. S. Lewis. I was not aware of him until late in life. I do appreciate all his writings.
Ross Cochrane avatar
Ross Cochrane
0 days ago
Thanks Ray. Particularly liked number 4. I have never really thought about that before.
Jimmie Tempano avatar
Jimmie Tempano
0 days ago
Ray, thanks for relaying these writing tips. After several still born attempts at a Christian novel, I finally have one going that looks like I may complete. These tips will help when I review and edit. Blessings, Jimmie
John E Miller avatar
John E Miller
0 days ago
Very helpful and challenging!

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Thank you.