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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > October 2017 > One true sentence

One true sentence

It’s one of the most quoted pieces of advice, from one of the most quoted authorities, but what did Hemingway’s ‘one true sentence’ actually mean? Author James McCreet explains

Ernest Hemingway’s style is among the most imitated by aspiring writers. He even began to imitate it himself when he felt his powers slipping. In his stories and in his early novels, however, we find a justly lauded, pared-down style that reveals more than it shows. This prose rewards study because it’s built on the principles of good writing.

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway wrote that when he was having trouble getting started, he would try to write one true sentence – the truest sentence he knew. It’s often quoted, but few critics specify exactly what he meant by it. ‘Truth’ meant a sentence that captured precisely and without unnecessary embellishment what he wanted to express. It wasn’t solely a grammatical or linguistic feat. It had to reconcile personal knowledge with expression: to write what he knew in such a way that the knowledge was honestly and wholly expressed.

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Competition supplement! Over 230 writing competitions to enter up to June 2018, and more than £430,000 in writing prizes! Win! Your book published by Lulu. Write your way around the world - how far writing competitions can take you. Star interview - The Commitment: Roddy Doyle on thirty years at the top of his game. The latest opportunities to get published and see your name in print.

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