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On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well (1976)

by William Zinsser

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And essential book for learning how to write, how to appreciate (the act of) writing and the written word - clean and clear prose, and that which is not; and how to do both with intelligence and relaxed compassion. ( )
  kosmos21 | Mar 19, 2014 |
It's important to realize that this book focuses upon journalistic non-fiction writing: tightly focused articles on just about every subject. You will not learn about fiction writing here. On the other hand, for non-fiction in general, this is one of the best books there is on the topic. He writes the book in the style and using the principles that he advocates. It's far more readable than Strunk & White, and deals with various genres: travel, memoir, science, et alia. Perhaps the most unique feature of the book is how he reveals what being a professional writer is all about emotionally, even spiritually. What kind of life must a person lead to be a good writer? How does one deal with editors? There are also chapters on the classic topics of writing: grammar, usage and punctuation. Even these often soporific topics are handled in a lively way. If you write non-fiction -- especially if you write in an academic environment, this book is a gem.
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
While not quite as inspirational to me as Stephen King's [b:On Writing|10569|On Writing|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348431774s/10569.jpg|150292], this one is just as indispensable. Almost 2/3 of it is applicable to fiction writers as well, so don't be put off by the subtitle or the sometimes dated content. "Bits & Pieces" is the single most valuable chapter. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
As I read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, I repeatedly thought of Ratatouille, an animated film from Pixar Studios. True, it’s a tenuous connection between the two works. Zinsser’s book was published more than three decades prior to the theatrical release of Ratatouille. And Zinnser’s intended audience (even though he argues in his book that a writer should never write for an intended audience) was likely professional adults whereas the animators of Ratatouille sought only to amuse children and childlike adults. But Zinsser’s book and the film argue for the same thing: anyone can master a craft. In Ratatouille, this theme is presented more whimsically; a rat becomes a world-class Parisian cook by following the credo “Anyone can cook!” Being a rat, he’s naturally disadvantaged in the kitchen, but with hard work, confidence, and, most importantly, an appreciation for delicious food, he manages to overcome his deficits and become a five-star chef. Zinsser is essentially supporting the same idea. Based on what he says in On Writing Well, anyone can write! Whether you’re a physicist more comfortable with quantum theory than punctuation rules or a relatively accomplished writer only occasionally struck by doubts, you will benefit from hearing these comforting words. In fact, Zinsser’s book is less of a writing manual and more of a psychiatric guide for the aspiring writer.

If you approach On Writing Well as a panacea for all your technical writing woes, a salve for your misplaced commas, a remedy for your verbosity, then you’re sure to be disappointed. As Zinsser repeatedly demonstrates—both through personal example and sage advice—success in writing comes from positive psychological habits. Anyone can write, because all anyone must do is develop confidence, approach the world as an interested and interesting citizen, and discover his or her ever elusive “self” and record it in words. As a result, the message of On Writing Well is scary yet liberating. There are no quick solutions here, but if you’re courageous enough to try, you can become a writer. ( )
1 vote IAmChrysanthemum | Jun 8, 2013 |
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One of the pictures hanging in my office in mid-Manhattan is a photograph of the writer E. B. White.
A school in Connecticut once held "a day devoted to the arts," and I was asked if I would come and talk about writing as a vocation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060891548, Paperback)

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sold, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:10 -0400)

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Warns against common errors in structure, style, and diction, and explains the fundamentals of conducting interviews and writing travel, scientific, sports, critical, and humorous articles.

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