William Safire Quotes

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William Safire

Safire receiving the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom
Born William Lewis Safir
(1929-12-17)December 17, 1929
New York City, New York, United States
Died September 27, 2009(2009-09-27) (aged 79)
Rockville, Maryland, United States
Occupation Author, columnist, lexicographer, journalist, political speechwriter
Nationality American
Genre Non-fiction
Subject Politics
Spouse Helene Belmar Julius

Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.
William Safire
I welcome new words, or old words used in new ways, provided the result is more precision, added color or greater expressiveness.
William Safire
Writers who used to show off their erudition no longer sing in the bare ruined choir of the media.
William Safire
Never assume the obvious is true.
What do you call a co-worker these days? Neither teammate nor confederate will do, and partner is too legalistic. The answer brought from academia to the political world by Henry Kissinger and now bandied in the boardroom is colleague. It has a nice upper-egalitarian feel, related to the good fellowship of collegial.
William Safire
I’m willing to zap conservatives when they do things that are not libertarian.
William Safire
 The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.
Sometimes I know the meaning of a word but am tired of it and feel the need for an unfamiliar, especially precise or poetic term, perhaps one with a nuance that flatters my readership’s exquisite sensitivity.
William Safire
One challenge to the arts in America is the need to make the arts, especially the classic masterpieces, accessible and relevant to today’s audience.
William Safire
Never look for the story in the ‘lede.’ Reporters are required to put what’s happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.
William Safire
When infuriated by an outrageous column, do not be suckered into responding with an abusive e-mail. Pundits so targeted thumb through these red-faced electronic missives with delight, saying ‘Hah! Got to ’em.’
William Safire
At a certain point, what people mean when they use a word becomes its meaning.
William Safire
Do not be taken in by ‘insiderisms.’ Fledgling columnists, eager to impress readers with their grasp of journalistic jargon, are drawn to such arcane spellings as ‘lede.’ Where they lede, do not follow.
William Safire
To be accused of ‘channeling’ is to be dismissed as a ventriloquist’s live dummy, derogated at not having a mind of one’s own.
William Safire
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
Stop worrying about the ‘dumbing down’ of our language by bloggers, tweeters, cableheads and MSM thumbsuckers engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’ of the page by little minds confined to little words.
William Safire
Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.
William Safire
A reader ought to be able to hold it and become familiar with its organized contents and make it a mind’s manageable companion.
William Safire
The wonderful thing about being a New York Times columnist is that it’s like a Supreme Court appointment – they’re stuck with you for a long time.
William Safire
I'm a right-wing pundit and have been for many years.
I think we all have a need to know what we do not need to know.
A book should have an intellectual shape and a heft that comes with dealing with a primary subject.
William Safire
Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day.
William Safire
When articulation is impossible, gesticulation comes to the rescue.
The noun phrase straw man, now used as a compound adjective as in ‘straw-man device, technique or issue,’ was popularized in American culture by ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
William Safire
Previously known for its six syllables of sweetness and light, reconciliation has become the political fighting word of the year.
William Safire
The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.
Have a definite opinion.
When I need to know the meaning of a word, I look it up in a dictionary.
If you re-read your work, you can find on re-reading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing.
William Safire
Today, war of necessity is used by critics of military action to describe unavoidable response to an attack like that on Pearl Harbor that led to our prompt, official declaration of war, while they characterize as unwise wars of choice the wars in Korea, Vietnam and the current war in Iraq.
William Safire