Rules of grammar and rhetoric are good in their own place, they must be followed in order to express thoughts and ideas in the right way so that they convey a determinate sense and meaning in a pleasing and acceptable manner. Hard and fast rules, however, can never make a writer or author. If a person has not a thought to express, it cannot be expressed. Something cannot be fabricated out of nothing. The author must have thoughts and ideas before he can express them on paper. These come to him by nature and are developed and strengthened by study.
The best way to learn to write is to sit down and write, just as the best way how to learn to ride a bicycle is to mount the wheel and pedal away. First write about common things – subjects that are familiar to you. Try, for instance, an essay on a cat. Say something original about her. Don’t say “she is very playful when young but becomes grave as she grows old.” That has been said more than fifty thousand times before. Familiar themes are always the best for the beginners. Don’t attempt to describe a scene in Australia if you have never been there and know nothing of the country. Never hunt for subjects, there are thousands around you. Describe what you saw yesterday and be original in your description. Imitate the best writers in their style, but not in their exact words. Know what you write about, write about what you know; this is a golden rule to which you must adhere. To know you must study. The world is an open book in which all who run may read.
Don’t imagine that a college education is necessary to success as a writer. Far from it. As it is necessary to study the best authors in order to be a writer, so it is necessary to study the best speakers in order to talk with correctness and in good style. To talk rightly you must imitate the masters of oral speech. Listen to the best conversationalists and how they express themselves. Go to hear the leading lectures and presentations. No need to imitate the gestures of elocution, it is not how a speaker expresses himself but the language which he uses and the manner of its use which should interest you. It is words and their placing that count on almost all occasions. No matter how refined in other respects the person may be, if he uses words wrongly and express himself in language not in accordance with a proper construction, he will repel you, whereas the man who places his words correctly and uses language in harmony with the rules of good speech, let him be ever so humble, will attract and have an influence over you.
The good speaker, the correct speaker, is always able to command attention and doors are thrown open to him which remain closed to others not equipped with such ability of expression. The man who can talk well is required in nearly every walk of life and field of human endeavor. The world wants him at every turn.
Employers are constantly on the lookout for good speakers, those who are able to attract the public and convince others by the force of their language. A man may be able, educated, refined, of unblemished character, nevertheless if he lacks the skill to express himself, put forth his views in good and appropriate speech has to take a back seat, while someone with much less ability gets the opportunity to come to the front because he can put his ideas in ready words and talk effectively.
You may again say that nature, not art, makes a man a fluent speaker; to a great degree this is true, but it is art that makes him a correct speaker, and correctness leads to fluency. It is possible for everyone to become a correct speaker if he perseveres and takes a little pains and care.
At the risk of repetition good advice may be here emphasized: listen to the best speakers and note carefully the words which impress you most. Keep a notebook and jot down words, phrases, sentences that are in any way striking or out of the ordinary. If you do not understand the exact meaning of a word you have heard, look it up in the dictionary. There are many words, called synonyms, which have almost a like meaning, nevertheless, when examined they express different shades of meaning and in some cases, instead of being close related, are widely divergent. Beware of such words, find their exact meanings and learn to use them in their right places. Be open to criticism, don’t resent it but rather invite it and look upon those as friends who point out your defects in order that you may correct them.