Adam Patterson | May 20th, 2013

The great American novelist Ernest Hemingway wrote himself into immortality with a minimalist prose style.

That style was derived, in part, from his “Iceberg Theory” of writing. What’s the “Iceberg Theory,” you ask? Here it is:

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

- Death In the Afternoon, Scribner’s, 1932, Chap.16, 192.

In other words, what we omit is as important as what we make explicit. Quality writing evokes an atmosphere, some kind of invisible depth. That’s the iceberg. Without it, writing is — as the saying goes — “just words on a page.”

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