San Diego Jewish Academy
High School Humanities
One True Sentence

"All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know." -
Ernest Hemingway

It was wonderful to walk down the long flights of stairs knowing that I'd had good luck working. I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was started on a new story and I could not get going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut the scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written. - Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
A "true" sentence, according to my writing friend, Frank Barone:

  • shows instead of tells
  • uses sense words
  • uses active verbs
  • does not use the following forms of the verb "to be": is; are; was; were; has, have, had been.

Some unfavorite words:

  • it is; there are; very; well; really; a lot; etc.; beautiful; wonderful; great

Criteria for good writing:

  • true sentences
  • show, don't tell
  • strong active verbs
  • specific details; concrete objects; no abstractions; sense words
  • metaphors and word pictures
  • no unnecessary or weak words (cut away, tighten)
  • creative introduction
  • thoughtful conclusion
  • evidence of revision
  • correctness (editing)

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