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On Writing Well (1976)

by William Zinsser

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5,723691,366 (4.14)99
On Writing Well, which grew out of a course that William Zinsser taught at Yale, has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity, and for the warmth of its style. It is a book for anybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does. 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 both fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished practitioner. How to Write a Memoir tells you how to write the story of your life. Everyone has a story - whether you're a professional writer or just want to validate your personal and family reminiscences, William Zinsser explains how to do it, and do it well.… (more)
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English (68)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (69)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Zinsser packs the book full of good points. Making every word do meaningful work is one of his best. ( )
  joshcrouse3 | Sep 17, 2021 |
Finished reading.

Now?

Do I recommend reading it? Yes.

Do I recommend following it? No.

Yes, I sure learned a few things here and there, but skimmed/skipped many parts, almost 20% of the book.

Why?
Well, in this book he tells how he writes, not how you should write. And the skimmed parts weren't relevant to my business of writing. :D

He provides tips on how to induce humour, how to hook a reader or how to end your piece. But, it should be at your discretion to decide your style of writing, depending on what type of writing project you are doing. ( )
  abhijeetkumar | Aug 22, 2021 |
I first read this book over ten years ago and I still come back to it often. It's life-changing. The expression "it should be mandatory reading" is overused, but in this case I can't think of a better summary. I have been juggling government work and academic research for fifteen years now, and both of those environments can degrade your writing to the point of ridiculousness ("stakeholders", "has been found to be", etc). This book is a form of damage control; it helps me keep my writing minimally sane and comprehensible. Buy it, read it, apply it, re-read it, recommend it to your friends and coworkers, buy several copies and gift them to everyone you care about.

This is my favorite excerpt:

"…the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what - these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank." ( )
  marzagao | Jun 1, 2021 |
I've reviewed this book in full here: https://niklas.reviews/2021/04/29/on-writing-well/ ( )
  pivic | Apr 29, 2021 |
It is targeted at non-fiction writing, but Zinsser has a lot of tips that can readily apply to fiction writing as well. Easily a book of reference I could see myself returning to for a refresher course on the finer points of crafting stories. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Not since "The Elements of Style" has there been a guide to writing as well presented and readable as this one. A love and respect for the language is evident on every page.
added by ArrowStead | editLibrary Journal
 
"On Writing Well" is a bible for a generation of writers looking for clues to clean, compelling prose.
added by ArrowStead | editNew York Times
 
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[Introduction] 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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On Writing Well, which grew out of a course that William Zinsser taught at Yale, has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity, and for the warmth of its style. It is a book for anybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does. 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 both fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished practitioner. How to Write a Memoir tells you how to write the story of your life. Everyone has a story - whether you're a professional writer or just want to validate your personal and family reminiscences, William Zinsser explains how to do it, and do it well.

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