Great writing has a certain musicality about it. It sounds pleasing to the ear when you hear it read aloud. Great writing is also delightful to read aloud–you can tell that the author cared what it would sound like–and had the discipline to craft the sentences not only grammatically, but musically.
C.S. Lewis originally hoped to be a great poet. It didn’t work out. His prose was better than his poetry. Not a poet, he remained poetic. Indeed, the poetic nature of his prose is one of the many reasons we love him. He’s easy on the ears while he challenges our minds and stirs our hearts.
One of his biographers, Alister McGrath, tells us that Lewis cared very much about how words sounded–to the point of advising against clacking away on a typewriter. I’m thankful my quiet laptop has replaced the typewriter–but I’m more thankful that Lewis cared about the sound of his sentences.
Lewis himself never learned to type, always depending on pens. One reason for this was…[his] having only one joint in his thumbs [which] prevented him from using a typewriter properly. Yet there is more to it than this. Lewis actively chose not to type. This mechanical mode of writing, he believed, interfered with the creative process in that the incessant clacking of the typewriter keys dulled the writer’s appreciation of the rhythms and cadences of the English language. When reading Milton or other poets, or composing a work of one’s own, Lewis argued, it was essential to appreciate how the writing sounded. As he later advised anyone thinking about writing seriously, “Don’t use a typewriter. The noise will destroy your sense of rhythm, which still needs years of training.”Alister McGrath, C.S. Lewis, A Life, 163.