On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

( 31 )

Overview

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a ...

See more details below
Paperback (30th Anniversary Edition)
$9.18
BN.com price
(Save 42%)$15.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (45) from $5.65   
  • New (12) from $5.65   
  • Used (33) from $6.00   
On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.49
BN.com price
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060891541
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/9/2006
  • Edition description: 30th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 30
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 19,320
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. During the 1970s he was master of Branford College at Yale. His 17 books, ranging from baseball to music to American travel, include the influential Writing to Learn and Writing About Your Life. He teaches at the New School in New York.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition

The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
By William Zinsser

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 William Zinsser
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060891548

Chapter One

The Transaction

A school in Connecticut once held "a day devoted to the arts," and I was asked if I would come and talk about writing as a vocation. When I arrived I found that a second speaker had been invited -- Dr. Brock (as I'll call him), a surgeon who had recently begun to write and had sold some stories to magazines. He was going to talk about writing as an avocation. That made us a panel, and we sat down to face a crowd of students and teachers and parents, all eager to learn the secrets of our glamorous work.

Dr. Brock was dressed in a bright red jacket, looking vaguely bohemian, as authors are supposed to look, and the first question went to him. What was it like to be a writer?

He said it was tremendous fun. Coming home from an arduous day at the hospital, he would go straight to his yellow pad and write his tensions away. The words just flowed. It was easy. I then said that writing wasn't easy and wasn't fun. It was hard and lonely, and the words seldom just flowed.

Next Dr. Brock was asked if it was important to rewrite. Absolutely not, he said. "Let it all hang out," he told us, and whatever form the sentences take willreflect the writer at his most natural. I then said that rewriting is the essence of writing. I pointed out that professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten.

"What do you do on days when it isn't going well?" Dr. Brock was asked. He said he just stopped writing and put the work aside for a day when it would go better. I then said that the professional writer must establish a daily schedule and stick to it. I said that writing is a craft, not an art, and that the man who runs away from his craft because he lacks inspiration is fooling himself. He is also going broke.

"What if you're feeling depressed or unhappy?" a student asked. "Won't that affect your writing?"

Probably it will, Dr. Brock replied. Go fishing. Take a walk. Probably it won't, I said. If your job is to write every day, you learn to do it like any other job.

A student asked if we found it useful to circulate in the literary world. Dr. Brock said he was greatly enjoying his new life as a man of letters, and he told several stories of being taken to lunch by his publisher and his agent at Manhattan restaurants where writers and editors gather. I said that professional writers are solitary drudges who seldom see other writers.

"Do you put symbolism in your writing?" a student asked me.

"Not if I can help it," I replied. I have an unbroken record of missing the deeper meaning in any story, play or movie, and as for dance and mime, I have never had any idea of what is being conveyed.

"I love symbols!" Dr. Brock exclaimed, and he described with gusto the joys of weaving them through his work.

So the morning went, and it was a revelation to all of us. At the end Dr. Brock told me he was enormously interested in my answers -- it had never occurred to him that writing could be hard. I told him I was just as interested in his answers -- it had never occurred to me that writing could be easy. Maybe I should take up surgery on the side.

As for the students, anyone might think we left them bewildered. But in fact we gave them a broader glimpse of the writing process than if only one of us had talked. For there isn't any "right" way to do such personal work. There are all kinds of writers and all kinds of methods, and any method that helps you to say what you want to say is the right method for you. Some people write by day, others by night. Some people need silence, others turn on the radio. Some write by hand, some by word processor, some by talking into a tape recorder. Some people write their first draft in one long burst and then revise; others can't write the second paragraph until they have fiddled endlessly with the first.

But all of them are vulnerable and all of them are tense. They are driven by a compulsion to put some part of themselves on paper, and yet they don't just write what comes naturally. They sit down to commit an act of literature, and the self who emerges on paper is far stiffer than the person who sat down to write. The problem is to find the real man or woman behind the tension.

Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is. I often find myself reading with interest about a topic I never thought would interest me -- some scientific quest, perhaps. What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field. How was he drawn into it? What emotional baggage did he bring along? How did it change his life? It's not necessary to want to spend a year alone at Walden Pond to become involved with a writer who did.

This is the personal transaction that's at the heart of good nonfiction writing. Out of it come two of the most important qualities that this book will go in search of humanity and warmth. Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks to "personalize" the author. It's a question of using the English language in a way that it will achieve the greatest clarity and strength.

Can such principles be taught? Maybe not. But most of them can be learned.

Continues...


Excerpted from On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition by William Zinsser Copyright © 2006 by William Zinsser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(11)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Helped Me to Receive Better Grades On My College Papers

    I bought this book to help me write better English papers. I had no idea how many bad writing habits I needed to change! <BR/><BR/>By simply doing away with embellishments and choosing concise and energetic verbs dramatically boosted the quality of my college papers. There are many other suggestions too: organization, structure, diction, using a thesaurus--but I was amazed at how much better my papers read (and grades improved) just by changing those two things I mentioned at the outset. <BR/><BR/>What I discovered is that writing is a process and not an end to itself. Possibly the greatest writers would probably want to change their published works if they were able to. This just means that we are all changing, growing individuals. <BR/><BR/>As a reference/how-to book, it reads very easily. Using examples from well-established writers, William Zinsser drives home his ideas in illustrative ways that will leave you entertained and informed. <BR/><BR/>Highly recommended.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good read

    I'm always looking for books that are targeted towards writing on an advanced level since most books are for the high school crowd that need definitions on adverbs and essay outlines. Zinsser makes this book a fun read and it made me think more about my writing technique outside of boring "black and white" nonfiction technique. He gives a lot of great writing examples and since I know he's a teacher, a lot of the information he gives seems like the criteria he's looking for when grading a paper. This book has been a great guide for me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good read for all writers

    This is written for non-fiction but as a fiction writer, I have found it invaluable. Zinsser's words stay the course. I highly recommend this for anyone considering a writing career.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book for driving you to write your own personal memoir

    This book is an excellent book for giving examples from his own writing of memoir, as well as tips and suggestions for how to keep your writing from being too wordy or generic.

    Zinsser writes to convey that simplicity is best and missing from most writing today. Authors should stand for their style, but not lose their audience in their wordiness.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2007

    A reviewer

    As a college student there is no doubt that every student should read this book. You will become a better writer if you read it. Zinsser not only writes on many topics and styles, but also gives interesting examples and demonstrates how you can apply his ideas into your own work. This book is a great book for any writer, from high school to retirement. His intellect and humor make a great combination and are reasons why this book is so easy to read and learn from. If you want to be a better writer, this book is for you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2007

    A CLASSIC GUIDE TO WRITING WELL

    On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, is meant to compliment The Elements of Style by Stunk and White. In Zinsser¿s own words ¿The Elements of Style is a book of pointers and admonitions: do this, don¿t do that. What it didn¿t address was how to apply those principles to the various forms that nonfiction writing and journalism can take.¿ Although the book is organized in four parts, the content could really be summarized in two categories: · Writing principals, methods, and attitudes · Guidelines for specific forms of nonfiction, including travel, humor, business, sports, arts, memoirs, and family history. Subjects addressed include: rewriting, craft vs. art, humanity and warmth, clutter, simplicity, finding a style, clichés, rhythm, unity, tone, and attitude. All of these are covered with the insight of a successful writer having decades of experience. The author works some biographical information and experiences into the text, but the focus of the material is on writing well. Given that the first edition was in 1976, some of the examples and attitudes are dated, but they also add to the charm of the book. No recaps or exercises are included at the end of the chapters, but an index is provided for easy reference. As the subtitle indicates, the book is specifically directed at nonfiction writing, but many of the concepts also apply to fiction. With over a million copies sold, and in its thirtieth anniversary edition, much of the information has already been worked into other writing guides. As envisioned by Zinsser, On Writing Well compliments The Elements of Style. Together, they make a great combination.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2006

    Review of book

    The book outlines the proper ways to write nonfiction. Zinsser stresses the importance of simplifying words and using words that one would normally. The point of writing is to express you and sell your topic this establishes a writing style. Zinsser states ¿The difference between an active verb style and a passive-verb style-in clarity and vigor-is the difference between life and death for a writer.¿ ¿He was seen running by Jane¿ is weaker than stating ¿Jane saw him run.¿ The latter is stronger and shorter. There is less confusion in a shorter precise sentence than a longer one. Zinsser states that most of the time writers write too much. It is clutter if you write ¿he screamed loudly.¿ If you scream it is loudly there is not reason to mention ¿loudly¿. Overall the book was written well and was useful.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 22, 2011

    Good stuff. I liked it.

    I write fiction, but this book was still helpful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 7, 2010

    Highly Recommended

    Zinsser's text is a valuable tool in learning to be a better writer. As a student, I found this book to be influential and informative. I can identify with Zinsser's advice to rid writing of clutter; I have been doing this for years. I was skeptical about reading a book about writing well, primarily because I did not know what to expect other than boredom. I discovered quite the opposite; his tips, sections and demonstrative style were interesting throughout the text as well as easy to understand and apply in my own writing. I have implemented much of what Zinsser discusses in his book both in school and everyday life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    On Writing Well Well Have Made My Writing Well, Better

    To the point, straight up, no bs guide on how the art of writing. I never realized before how much style and other factors can effect the enjoyability of my writing. Ever since I finished the book, I notice almost immediately the methods expressed therein in other pieces that I am reading, whether they be novels, articles, essays, or even text-books.
    If you want to open up your scope of creativity, read this book. If I could be any more cliche in saying that if you want to become a better writer, read this book. Get it. It's good.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 15, 2009

    outstandingly informative and stimulating

    I wish I had read this book years ago. It's very well-written, informative, and amusing. Don't miss it, if you have any idea or aspiration for writing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    Writing well

    This is a good book to assist students in the writing process.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2008

    Truly an Exceptional Book!

    This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in writing and publishing to read and enjoy. I just love it! I started reading this book during a journalism class. I learned more from the book than from the journalism teacher. Every story the teacher had a problem with, I had published in my original writing without changing one word. The editors of the newspapers publishing the stories also loved them. Additionally, the audience and readers of the articles are just elated and happy to read them. This book has really opened my eyes regarding the writing process, teachers, and editors. I have learned how to fight back and win! I have also picked up some sound advice on enjoyment and confidence, and how to deal with tyranny and fear. This is truly an inspirational book. It is easy to read. The chapters are not long. There is humor in the pages, and I truly enjoyed the learning experience. I will cherish it and read it again from time to time. Thank you William Zinsser!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2007

    A reviewer

    In order to improve your grammar and writing skills, I recommend reading 'On Writing Well' by William Zinsser. The book highlights a variety of techniques in four parts. His writing style is very personal and his use of clarity makes the book a very easy read. Zinsser uses his own personal examples of what NOT to do as well as his own personal advice on how to improve each sentence that you write.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2003

    For Fiction Writers Too!

    I don't know why this book is so relegated to nonfiction writers. Fiction writers will benefit greatly from Zinsser's guidance as well, to learn to focus their work, fix their grammar and dump all those adjectives that send their work to the slush piles! A must read for fiction writers too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2002

    Well written advice

    This book helped me with my attempt to begin a short story. Zinsser assisted me through my thought process. I would recommend this book to all new writers like myself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2000

    An Enduring Classic

    I first taught from this book in the early 80's, and the latest edition now serves students in my online course On Writing Well: A Composition Sampler. Zinsser inspires budding writers with snippets of great nonfiction to exemplify his no-nonsense instruction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 23, 2014

    A Must Have Book for the Nonfiction Writer

    Compliments to Wm Zinsser for providing a road map, suggestions, examples and direction for those aspiring and current nonfiction writers. I found the book most helpful not only as a review but helpful direction. It's a must have book On Writing Well for all novice or experienced writers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    S.K.

    Sorry. I didn't have enough time on my hands.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 2, 2013

    Ironically for a book dealing with writing well, the overview st

    Ironically for a book dealing with writing well, the overview states &quot;...with more than a million copies sole...&quot;

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)