Never Argue With a Person Who Buys Ink By the Barrel

The original saying that goes, “I never argue with a man who buys his ink by the barrel”, has never really had its proper attribution.

Some say it’s a Mark Twain aphorism—though The Mark Twain House has no record of it.

Others credit it to the publicist, William Greener, Jr., others yet, to the Indiana congressman, Charles Brownson. And Aaron Sorkin grants it life in an episode of my favorite series, West Wing, via Toby Ziegler.

Thing is, I felt it needed a final flourish, especially in our world today of social media saturation where opinions multiply by the minute, and some feel obliged to reply to every single one.

Instead, remember that victory goes to the side that chooses its battles wisely. Some fights are won while others lost. But what matters at the end is who’s standing with pride. Therefore we’ll always be more effective when we realize that time is not merely limited—it’s fragile.

So go about writing with a purpose in mind, not merely a reaction. All the while pretend your quill can break any second.

With that, I give you my take on an old chestnut:

Never argue with a person who buys ink by the barrel. Rather see in your quill a limited word count.

See the website Freakonomics for a great discussion regarding the original quote.