The Electric Typewriter

Great articles and essays by the world's best journalists and writers.

30 Great Essays and Articles about
Words and Writing

A collection of great articles and essays about words and writing


On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion

A beautiful meditation on keeping notes that explores the heart of the writing process.

Why I Write by Joan Didion

Exploring the art of writing, and what it means to the author.

The Rise of the Essay by Zadie Smith

Why novelists love writing essays, explained by a novelist in an essay.

That Crafty Feeling by Zadie Smith

"What I have to say about craft extends no further than my own experience, which is what it is - 12 years and three novels."

Fail Better by Zadie Smith

Literature's legacy of honourable failure

A Place You All Know Well by Michael Chabon

I’ve always felt that there’s a kinship between writers and explorers. I’m not saying this is some great insight on my part. In fact, explore is probably one of the verbs most commonly employed to try and explain what we think writers are doing when they write.

The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

A plagiarism

Uncanny the Singing That Comes from Certain Husks by Joy Williams

"Who cares if the writer is not whole? Of course the writer is not whole, or even particularly well..."

Mister Lytle by John Jeremiah Sullivan

"When I was twenty years old, I became a kind of apprentice to a man named Andrew Lytle..."

Too Much Information by John Jeremiah Sullivan

"The New Yorker, which published some of his best fiction, never did any of his nonfiction: He couldn't have changed his voice to suit the magazine's famous house style, a "plain style", which is about erasing yourself as a writer and laying claim to a kind of invisible narrative authority."

The Nature of the Fun by David Foster Wallace

"A book-in-progress is a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it’ll get: the writer’s complete attention."

Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young
by David Foster Wallace

"The honeymoon’s end between the literary Establishment and the contemporary young writer was an inevitable and foreseeable consequence of the same shameless hype that led to many journeyman writers’ premature elevation in the first place…"

E unibus pluram: television and U.S. fiction
by David Foster Wallace

"Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers. They tend to lurk and to stare. The minute fiction writers stop moving, they start lurking, and stare. They are born watchers."

Stalking the Billion-footed Beast by Tom Wolfe

"A Literary Manifesto for the New Social Novel"

Protesting All Fiction Writers! by Tom Bissell

"Nerdily Private Dreams, Species of Outsider, Writing in Plain English, Raw Authenticity, Alienated Socioeconomic Posturing, Injustice, Selling the Sacred, Art and Death."

How To Write A Love Poem by Jim Behrle

"The first step is to stare at a blank piece of paper for a while..."

How to Win the Nobel Prize in Literature by Jim Behrle

"So you didn’t win a Nobel Prize in Literature this week. I know, it’s total bullshit. You totally deserved it. But you might just be a calendar year away from getting the recognition you so obviously deserve. Let me show you the way."

Do Writers Need Paper? by Tom Chatfield

"For those who simply wish to write, the digital arena offers unprecedented empowerment, but online authorship is also a difficult game to come into cold for those who have hopes of doing more than seeing their words appear on a screen."

How to Blurb and Blurb and Blurb by A. J. Jacobs

I’ve blurbed so many books that they fill a bookcase. The exact number? Hard to say, but certainly in the triple digits.

The Masterpiece that Killed George Orwell
by Robert McCrum

"The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell's dystopia."

The New Yorker Rejects Itself by David Cameron

A Quasi-Scientific Analysis of Slush Piles

I type, Therefore I am by Tom Chatfield

More human beings can write and type their every thought than ever before. Something to celebrate or deplore?

Golem by Michale Chabon

The recipe for life

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

A Call for Spelling Standardization (or Is That Standardisation?) by Maria Konnikova

British English, American English, Noah Webster English, or New Yorker English? Let's just pick one and stick with it.

Are Apostrophes Necessary? by Matthew J.X. Malady

Not really, no.

The Comma From Which My Heart Hangs by Benjamin Samuel

Abandonment or abuse of the comma muddles discourse. This lack of respect is akin to neglect

Grammar Lessons from David Foster Wallace

The late great DFW on Grammar

English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet by Megan Garber

Linguists are recognizing the delightful evolution of the word "because."