Book Review: On Writing Well

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William Zinnser’s On Writing Well is a gentle, entertaining guide to nonfiction writing. Rich with diverse literary examples and practical advice, Zinnser provides a “something for everyone” basket of knowledge.

Here’s the paperback and audiobook.

Utility: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

A thoroughly practical book, Zinnser sections off his book by lesson. The medium conveniently lends itself to examples. Every technique is aptly demonstrated by a masterful author (and every mistake hilariously parodied). I learned everything from how to write better emails to how to write better blog posts. Again, a little bit for everyone.

Writing: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Who am I to critique the teacher? Every paragraph is crafted carefully, with entertaining, clear, and smooth passages. Zinnser could have written the book without borrowing examples from others; the book is a masterpiece in nonfiction writing.

Notes

  • Re-write. Revisit every paragraph; toil at the typewriter. Removing clutter, improving word choice, and clarifying the message is the essence of writing.
  • Inject humanity and warmth into your writing to form a bond with the reader. Write as you speak. No “indeed” or “furthermore.”
  • Push the boundaries. Hell, jump over the wall! Good writers discover unconventional connections.
  • Always prepare more material than you will ultimately use. Be willing to part with what you don’t need.
  • Business writing is particularly subject to glut. Words like “drive” should be met with a pink slip.
  • Be precise. A unexpected verb or adjective will spark joy in the reader. Still working on it.
  • Full circles are nice. End where you started. William Zinnser’s On Writing Well is a gentle, entertaining guide to nonfiction writing.