Preaching Articles

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)

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Edward Cook

commented on Mar 11, 2014

Good stuff. The fifth point reminded me of a book I was looking at this morning in which 8 of the first ten sentences were punctuated with an exclamation mark.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Mar 11, 2014

To get away from 'jargon' too - this is so essential when preaching and teaching - and - also in business. I have just listened to a businessman on Radio Scotland speaking about how he gave a 15 minutes answer using nothing but 'business speak and jargon' - and the client felt satisfied - but the speaker was dissatisfied that night when he returned home!

Bill Haynes

commented on Mar 11, 2014

If I were writing #5 today the word I would choose is "awesome" . . . it is used by people today for just about everything from a car to a hamburger. Seems to me that the only proper use of "awesome," something that strikes awe and worship, is God!! Just my pet peeve, I suppose!

Dale C

commented on Mar 11, 2014


Dale C

commented on Mar 11, 2014

Very good tips. Thank you for posting this!

Cynthia R. Bradley

commented on Mar 11, 2014

Excellent article. Point four, I am working on to really tell a story and build on it until one sees, feels, and remembers how they felt/would feel if they were experiencing what I'm talking about. Like, "the scent of magnolia draped over the garden, speeding up and slowing down with the breeze." And, Point five, definitely save the "big" words for the big stuff. Thank you.

Simon Loghod

commented on Mar 13, 2014

Good pieces of tips though.

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