The Art of Honing Words
by Maxine Marsolini, OCW President
Writers are often told to hone their craft. But what does it really mean to hone our words? I consulted two dictionaries and found hone refers either to an instrument or an action, depending on its use.
According to the Winston Simplified Dictionary Encyclopedic Edition of 1932, a treasured gift given me by a beloved uncle, a hone is described as a whetstone for sharpening razors and other keen-edged tools. The Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary of 1979 carries that same thought to a broader meaning by stating that the hone is a fine-grit stone used for sharpening cutting implements or a tool for enlarging holes to precise tolerances and controlling finishes by means of a mechanically rotated abrasive. When boiled down further, hone as an action means to sharpen, enlarge, or smooth to make more acute, intense, or effective.
The whole idea of honing is similar to the craftsmen of the Bible in Solomon’s day who were brought in to construct various portions of the temple. What might happen if we saw ourselves as artists under assignment from God? Our talents are every bit as God-given as those handed out to people in Old Testament days. They, too, are intended for excellence and meant to bring Him glory.
Effective writers know polishing is essential. The first draft is never the finished product ready for publication. Some deliberate, even abrasive, measures are needed before declaring the quality of the work finished. With that thought in mind, a simple acrostic is helpful.
Hold learning the craft in high regard as a defender of passion.
Open the mind to assess how the reader will be inspired or swayed.
Notice any language that weakens the work.
Expect this journey of words to be exhilarating and toilsome.
Writers are the whetstones whereupon words are sharpened to become more effective. Attending writers’ conferences is a great way to gain appreciation for the art of honing words.