On Writing Well

On Writing Well by William Zinsser (Collins; 25th anniversary edition, 2001) should be a staple on any student’s bookshelf. And even if you have a stack of “how to write” books, Zinsser’s should be on top. According to Amazon.com, simplicity is Zinsser's mantra: he preaches a stripped-down writing style, strong and clear. He has no patience for excess (most adjectives and adverbs, he says, just add clutter) or tired phraseology. He recommends that all writers read their work aloud (don't commit something to paper that you wouldn't actually say) and write under the assumption that “the reader knows nothing”(not to be confused with assuming the reader's an idiot). In addition to the chapters on the expected (usage, audience, interviews, leads), Zinsser also focuses on such trouble spots as science and technical writing, business writing, sports, and humor.

“This book is as engaging as it is instructive. It's so easy to read and understand, you can't help but improve. It spells out everything that's wrong with most people's writing, then provides simple solutions. You'll cut pounds of fat from your writing. Your sentences will sparkle and your paragraphs will dance. Best of all, your readers will read, not groan.” – Bob Dickson, Valencia, CA

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