Sound advice from 1884

Use concise terms; have a choice of words; be anything but commonplace. If you attempt to describe a horserace, put motion into the article; make it so picturesque and full of life that your readers can see the flying animal, the crowd of spectators, and hear the loud cheers that announce the winning heat. Give strength and beauty to the simplest things you describe; use a lead pencil and eraser, and strike out any sentence that is not a picture. Some of the strongest journalistic work in the world has been done by women…

Indeed, the papers to which women do not contribute, and on whose pages they are not employed, are exceptions to the rule. And there is always room for more…

If a woman is born with a talent to write she will write — there is no possible doubt about that.

— Martha Louise Rayne, What Can a Woman Do? (1884)

I went antique shopping with my mother today and found this book in the upper floor of an old Vermont barn. Luckily for me, the whole thing has been digitized by Google and is available here. I’m thankful to Martha Louise Rayne and others like her who wrote intelligently and winsomely about being a woman and a journalist long before I was born.

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3 thoughts on “Sound advice from 1884

    • I wish! It was a barn converted into an antique shop. But the floor boards still creaked, so I guess it has retained some measure of authenticity. :)

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