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On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well (1976)

by William Zinsser

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
William Zinsser has written a book that demonstrates the principles he teaches. He evidently respects his craft and relishes his subject. It was a pleasure to go along with him as he pinned down different techniques, concepts, and ideas that are helpful in writing well.

Was I enthralled at every page? No. But I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and I did feel that I was standing before a veteran writer who was kindly, unapologetically advising me in the way he has already trodden many times. I often find his recommendations coming back to me whenever I am about to write in a hurry, or without due regard for excellence. I am glad I read this book. ( )
  elephantine | Nov 27, 2015 |
The best book I've ever read about writing. Every high school and college student should be required to read this. It's honest, well written, and full of stories and examples that help you remember the key advice.

I typically save good quotes while reading a book; in this case, I'm afraid that I've saved half the book.

“The airline pilot who announces that he is presently anticipating experiencing considerable precipitation wouldn’t think of saying it may rain.”

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one.”

“Verbs are the most important of all your tools. They push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully.”

“Readers want a writer who believes in himself and in what he is saying. Don’t diminish that belief. Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold.”

“I don’t like to write; I like to have written.”

“Most men and women lead lives, if not of quiet desperation, at least of desperate quietness, and they jump at a chance to talk about their work to an outsider who seems eager to listen.”

V. S. Pritchett: “One realizes there are two breeds in Turkey: those who carry and those who sit. No one sits quite so relaxedly, expertly, beatifically as a Turk; he sits with every inch of his body; his very face sits. He sits as if he inherited the art from generations of sultans in the palace above Seraglio Point.”

“The English (as Pritchett reminds me) have long excelled at a distinctive form of travel writing—the article that’s less notable for what a writer extracts from a place than for what the place extracts from him. New sights touch off thoughts that otherwise wouldn’t have entered the writer’s mind.”

“Writing is not a special language owned by the English teacher. Writing is thinking on paper.”

“The principle of scientific and technical writing applies to all nonfiction writing. It’s the principle of leading readers who know nothing, step by step, to a grasp of subjects they didn’t think they had an aptitude for or were afraid they were too dumb to understand.”

“Countless careers rise or fall on the ability or the inability of employees to state a set of facts, summarize a meeting or present an idea coherently.”

“You only have to remember that readers identify with people, not with abstractions like “profitability,” or with Latinate nouns like “utilization” and “implementation,” or with inert constructions in which nobody can be visualized doing something: “pre-feasibility studies are in the paperwork stage.”

“Remember: “I” is the most interesting element in any story.”

“It doesn’t bother me that a certain number of readers will not be amused; I know that a fair chunk of the population has no sense of humor—no idea that there are people in the world trying to entertain them.”

“As a nonfiction writer you’ll be thrown again and again into specialized worlds, and you’ll worry that you’re not qualified to bring the story back.”

“In travel writing you should never forget that you are the guide. It’s not enough just to take your readers on a trip; you must take them on your trip.” ( )
  brikis98 | Nov 11, 2015 |
Inspires the craft of and passion for writing. This will go on my reread list. ( )
  tangentrider | Aug 27, 2015 |
Recommended for everyone. If you write anything important in English then it's a must-read. If you write in another language, or if your writing is limited to email and Facebook, this will still help you to express your thoughts more clearly.

I must note that it is a surprisingly fun and light read for a grammar book.

Strunk & White "Elements of Style" is another, more revered, classic. If you have to choose between the two, read "On Writing Well" because it is more modern. But you can only win if you read both.
( )
  valdanylchuk | Aug 26, 2015 |
This book really opens a writer's eyes on how some simple changes and adjustments with our style and convention will make us better writers. I read this one for my Abydos trainer certification and took in good advice on writing better. ( )
  dmoitzh | Jul 17, 2015 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:29 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

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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