Hit lit wit bit pit nit fit

Have you ever read something that was simply too clever? I mean, were you ever immersed in a popular and well-reviewed novel when, out of nowhere, one particular phrase caught your eye simply because of its extreme wit or elegant construction?

For me, this is not necessarily a good thing. Finding my attention drawn too much to an individual phrase or sentence can yank me clear out of an otherwise good read.

At such moments, I tend to feel that greater cleverness in writing is not always better. I like it better when the writing is good in that more difficult but less showy way: When each part subsumes itself to the whole, thereby supporting an experience of maximum immersion.

It’s an easy pit to fall into. After all, who doesn’t love a well-turned phrase?

Still, as Arthur Quiller-Couch once sensibly advised: “Murder your darlings.”1

Alas, I somehow managed to violate that rule in the very title of this post. So I guess it’s time to quit this hit lit wit bit pit nit fit.2

1. Quiller-Couch, A., On the Art of Writing, University of Cambridge, 1916.
2. Op. cit.

One Response to “Hit lit wit bit pit nit fit”

  1. David A Smith says:

    This isn’t just about phrases. I hated when Neil Stephenson inserted an entire chapter about eating Cap’n Crunch in the middle of Cryptonomicon. It was excellent, even superb writing. But it was showing off. It broke the story, and it took a bit of work to fix it again.

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