Writing book: Zinsser’s On Writing Well

Zinsser's On Writing WellNot exactly breaking news, but William Zinsser’s On Writing Well is one of those books that many writers agree it’s a good idea to try to reread yearly. If you don’t have time at the moment I came across a great address printed at American Scholar (via www.aldaily.com of course) where he talks about some of his standard advice. Cheating I know but here’s the bit where he starts to reiterate his top rules for writing:

First, Clarity. If it’s not clear you might as well not write it. You might as well stay in bed.

Two: Simplicity. Simple is good. Most students from other countries don’t know that. When I read them a sentence that I admire, a simple sentence with short words, they think I’m joking. “Oh, Mr. Zinsser, you’re so funny,” a bright young woman from Nigeria told me. “If I wrote sentences like that, people would think I’m stupid.” Stupid like Thoreau, I want to say. Or stupid like E. B. White. Or like the King James Bible. Listen to this passage from the book of Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all. [Look at all those wonderful plain nouns: race, battle, bread, riches, favor, time, chance.]

Okay, like any good freelancer I should link you directly to the source, here’s where to go to keep reading:

http://www.theamericanscholar.org/writing-english-as-a-second-language/