Literature: Good reading leads to good writing

In Nuce: Another reason to read the classic on your shelf
There's another reason to read the classic on your shelf. One spinoff of excellent reading may be your own excellent writing.

William Minto, 19th century professor of logic and English at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, contends that  consistent exposure to great prose and poetry subconsciously informs our own writing style and substance.

As in any art, an initial knowledge of the governing rules is important. But that knowledge
must always be for the most part negative, and a man may have the completest knowledge how not to write and yet dip his pen and cudgel his brains in vain.
Bottom line: though successful writing ultimately depends on a combination of talent, knowledge, passion, and practice, a writer learns best by example. 

In any language that has been used for centuries as a literary instrument, the beginner cannot begin as if he were the first in the field. Whatever he proposes to write, be it essay or sermon or leading article, history or fiction, there are hundreds of things of the same kind in existence, some of which he must have read and cannot help taking more or less as patterns or models.
The various forms or plans of composition of every kind have been gradually developed by the practice of successive generations. If a man writes effectively without giving a thought to the manner of his composition, it must be because he has chanced upon good models, and not merely because he knows his subject well or feels it deeply and has a natural gift for expression. He can spare himself the trouble of thinking because his predecessors have thought for him; he is rich as being the possessor of inherited wealth.
I take it that the main use of rhetorical principles—if the word rhetoric may be applied to the art of composition—is to quicken the beginner's natural judgment in his study of examples. He is placed in the midst of a host of writers, good and bad. The most effective writers naturally influence him most. He might learn from them as much as he wants of the art of composition without any guidance. He imitates what he admires, irrespective of all guidance...
The writer acquires his vocabulary, his habits of arrangement, his turns of phrase and sentence, by a slow and gradual process day after day as he reads and feels and thinks.

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