Maria Popova shares the ten rules of writing sent by Friedrich Nietszche to Lou Andreas-Salome.
Between August 8 and August 24 of 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche set down ten stylistic rules of writing in a series of letters to the Russian-born writer, intellectual, and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-SalomÃ© â€” a woman celebrated as the â€œmuse of Europeâ€™s fin-de-siÃ¨cle thinkers and artists,â€ to whom Rainer Maria Rilke would later come to write breathtaking love letters. …
Collected under the heading â€œToward the Teaching of Style,â€ they read:
Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.
Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)
First, one must determine precisely â€œwhat-and-what do I wish to say and present,â€ before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.
Since the writer lacks many of the speakerâ€™s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.
The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything â€” the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments â€” like gestures.
Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.
Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.
The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.
Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.
It is not good manners or clever to deprive oneâ€™s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to oneâ€™s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.
The 1882 photo scene depicted in “Beyond Good and Evil” (‘Al di lÃ del bene e del male’) by Liliana Cavani (1977).