Hemingway’s Style and Today’s Business Writer

I never loved the English language until it was taken away from me. As an exchange student in Austria during my senior year in high school, my ears were suddenly deprived of familiar words and cadences. Speaking in and listening to German took painfully conscious effort.

Marcia Riefer Johnston with her host family in Austria in 1975

My host family and I spazieren in the alive hills of southeast Austria in 1975.

During that year, letters from home quenched more than my thirst for news; they plunged me into English. I was a fish back in water.

One day, several months into my stay, I discovered a stash of British and American novels in the school library. I happened to pick up The Hemingway Reader. It was like a letter from home. My commitment to writing traces back to that moment. Years later I came across a used copy of the Reader. It’s one of the books I’d grab if our house were on fire. The observations and excerpts in Charles Poore’s foreword have shaped my writing efforts in journalism, playwriting, fiction, poetry, technical writing, marketing writing—every kind of writing I’ve ever done.

While Poore’s foreword focuses on the aesthetics of creating fiction, many of the principles discussed apply to the craft of writing in general…

For the rest of this post, see my article on the Content Wrangler blog: “Hemingway’s Pebbles and Today’s Business Communicator.” 

This article, originally entitled “Hemingway’s Style and the Technical Communicator,” first appeared in slightly different form in the Society for Technical Communication journal, Technical Communication, Third Quarter 1990. Republished with permission.

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