on a quote about KJV style

I picked up a little book on writing in a thrift store last spring. I think I payed all of one dollar for a hardback… The book is On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser, a former professor at Yale, well known editor, etc. If you can find this book, I highly recommend it. It is actually a very enjoyable read with some laugh out loud sections on various points of writing. I don’t know if it has improved my writing, although I do find myself paying more attention to how I phrase things.

In a section where Zinsser pushes writing with active verbs, he has this interesting little quote:

If you want to see how active verbs give vitality to the written word, don’t just go back to Hemingway or Thurber or Thoreau, I commend the King James Bible and William Shakespeare. [p. 112]

Zinsser is not a believer, I am sure. But this observation is interesting. I would like to know how well the modern versions have followed this pattern by the KJV translators. Perhaps this element of the KJV explains some of its enduring quality. While I am not against the need to modernize, I do love the KJV phraseology on so many points. Sometimes the newer versions seem just kind of wimpy and anemic. Perhaps we could start a new slogan, “Real men read the KJV.”

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Kent Brandenburg says:

    What are you doing, Don? Trying to make me like you more? Real Men, Positive KJV. I’m going to cry like a woman over this.

  2. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Kent

    hey man, I thought that one would light you up.

    But like I said, I am not against modernizing the version, and I think there are a couple of good attempts out there.

    Nevertheless, the KJV is a monumental accomplishment. I am overwhelmed by it quite often and there are phrases in there that really can’t be improved on.

    BTW, I just finished Olga Opfel’s The King James Bible Translators. Have you ever read that one? Quite an interesting insight into the men and the times. A little too brief, but I guess there is not much info on the translators more than what she gathered together.

    I have a couple of quotes from Opfel that I plan to blog on in the near future. Good stuff.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3