Bang-up Book "On Writing Well"

I’m reading this book on writing well. It’s a guide to writing nonfiction. And that’s almost its title.

I’ve written so many SCA handouts and competition documentations I forgot writing nonfiction was fun. 

William Zinsser’s book, while on writing basics, is amusing and shrewd. I’ve changed my style because of it.  

I’m throwing out adverbs (when I recognize them) and abridging things. I’m rewriting earlier posts for practice. It’s fun seeing the flow and feeling become graceful.

Although my dogs think I’m crazy, I say out loud everything I write before I push the publish button.

A journalist and teacher, Zinsser sometimes breaks rules. Like his thoughts on contractions, 

Your style will be warmer and truer to your personality if you use contractions like “I’ll” and “won’t” and “can’t” when they fit comfortably into your writing…There’s no rule against such informality–trust your ear and instincts.

And the on valued untouchable initial word “but” he writes,

Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with ‘but.’ If that is what you learned, unlearn it–there’s no stronger word at the start. It announces total contrast with what has gone before, and the reader is therefore primed for the change.

I relish the humor he spreads on each page. Like when he describes the difference between “that” and “which”.

Anybody who tries to explain “that” and “which” in less than an hour is asking for trouble. 

Or his comment about business writing.

…just because people work for an institution they don’t have to write like one. 

 The book’s biggest takeaway–simple and clear writing is powerful. I’ve rediscovered it’s also fun to do.

Categories: Reviews

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