Aphorisms by Stanley Fish

The sentence is the basic unit of composition, and for most forms of aphoristic writing it is also the only unit of composition, which makes Stanley Fish’s charming book How to Write A Sentence: And How to Read One so engaging, including his aphoristic musings on the craft of writing and other matters…


A discipline in form is a discipline in thought.


If you’re waiting for fortune to smile, you may endure many a dark day.


Do your best, but expect the worst.


When someone rises to a point of principle, watch your back.


Politicians promise relief but give you grief.

Aphorisms: From Ideas to Action

Over the past few months, I had the great good fortune to devise and teach a course called Aphorisms: From Ideas to Action at Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action. This was a special experience for me, since it was from here that I graduated in 1985, here that I included a collection of aphorisms as part of my senior thesis, here that I started doing my ‘aphorisms in the globe’ shtick, and here that I met my wife. The experience was all the more special because of the great group of students I had in my class. We read and talked about aphorisms in every possible permutation during the course of the term and, of course, we wrote aphorisms, too. Some students opted to write a collection of aphorisms as their final paper, but we all composed aphorisms (sometimes inadvertently) as part of the course. The students’ work was exceptional. Below is a selection of some of the aphorisms they came up with over the past 13 weeks…


For the sake of the writers’ ideas, ‘less is more’ is a proverb to be applied to candy and glue, not to aphorisms. —Catherine Lentini


Aphorisms help you overhear yourself thinking. —Molly Case


I cannot see past myself, yet all that I see is beyond me. —Silas van der Swaagh


To rebel one must wear the right uniform. —Devan Marques


Be your own definition. —Amanda Haggerty


Secure your own mask before helping others. —Jan-Erik Asplund


There’s no point criticizing the rules of a game you can’t change; you’ve just got to learn them and play them as best as you can. —Corey Ecay


You can only understand the power of language once you have lost it. —Lauren Glading


Sometimes a dumb thing is a thing worth saying. —Alan Dupont


College is a place where the people who need it least are told things that the world needs to know. —Dylan Scott


Jealousy is affinity plus allergy. —Emma Schmelzer


The constant is that things are always being torn down. —Samuel Mayer


Visit a city to observe the behavior of animals. —Anna Eckert-Kramer


First impressions are the last chance to impress. —Lila Cutter


Even the most sophisticated dinner party has trouble under its tabletop. —Hannah Davidson