On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Reviewed by Deane Barker tags: writing

One of the greatest books every written on writing. Zinsser strikes the perfect balance between a strategic and tactical approach to what writers do. He mixes good perspective with practical advice.

The first part is all plans and strategy. He’s big on clarity – every word should serve a purpose. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

The second part is an examination of different writing styles, everything from sports-writing to cultural criticism. You won’t do all of this writing, but even the stuff you’ll never do is wrapped up in good advice. Looking at styles you’re not likely to pursue still has value.

The last part is about more strategic concerns with writing. He includes an essay he wrote, and annotates it for his own style and voice.

The book is an easy read, because – not shockingly – Zinsser is a great writer himself. This was originally published 1976. It’s current in it’s sixth printing, and I was reading “The 30th Anniversary Edition” from 2006.

This is the second time I’ve read it (though, the first in some 20 years). It’s worth reading every year.

Book Info

William Zinsser

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