On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

by William Zinsser

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062250506
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/11/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 36,859
File size: 939 KB

About 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.

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On Writing Well 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
LennonFan More than 1 year ago
I bought this book to help me write better English papers. I had no idea how many bad writing habits I needed to change!

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.

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.

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.

Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
whspatron More than 1 year ago
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.
engauge More than 1 year ago
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.
KarenMcGrath More than 1 year ago
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.
Dfculver More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
wkl More than 1 year ago
I write fiction, but this book was still helpful.
BillA More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
tyroeternal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On Writing Well is a simple guide for writing well. Thankfully, as a book about writing should be, it is written well. I found the advice to be accessible and ready to be applied.If you write (and you do) you should read this book.
ronjawdi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading this, it is clear that Zinsser is well qualified to write such a difficult book. Writing is a "subjective experience". So to produce a how-to guide seems to be an unattainable task. Zinsser's years of experience pour through the pages leaving the impression that writing can be enjoyable and done well. I shall return to this book again and again!!!
tgraettinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book on writing and thinking about writing. Zinsser covers a wide breadth of topics, from writing memoirs, to writing about travel, to writing about sports, and more. He makes it very simple - write about people doing things, and write more like you speak than less. Good chapter on organizing a longer work as well.
kathleenmcgowan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zinsser has produced an inspiring and practical manual in On Writing Well. My AP English teacher in high school recommended this book to me as a reference when I went to her asking how best to improve my own writing¿¿obviously, I aspired to publish. I particularly enjoy Zinsser's thoughts on modern memoirs.
wahmreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My job requires me to be able to write well, and this book really helped me to hone my writing skills. Zinsser's advice and techniques are concrete and specific, and after applying his suggestions and theories to my own work, I improved my style tremendously.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read some guides about how to write well, and they've always had such terrible advice and used such awful, vulgar examples (usually taken from their own genre fiction) that I had abandoned all hope. Ostensibly, Zinsser's book is about writing nonfiction, but it works well for every kind of writing, and is the best guide to writing I have ever read.
RosesAreRed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was forced to purchase this book for a course I took, but I didn't sell it back. It was amusing and very informative.
bdayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hands down, the best book I've ever read on the craft of writing non-fiction. A book I've owned for fifteen years, I still return to it; still find new things to learn from it. It never fails to inform and inspire.
jcopenha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best book on writing I've ever read. This book lightly touches on grammar, only to get it out of the way, and then is on to the act of writing. He focuses on the thought process of writing, what to write about, how to write about different subjects, and most importantly how to rewrite what you've just written. Everybody that writes, anything, should read the first section, titled "Principles". Those first fifty pages apply to all forms of writing and will serve you well. William Zinsser wrote in such an engaging style that I'll be adding at least two more of his books to my reading list. And because he talked about it so fondly I might even reread Walden, but that's a long shot.
marck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zinsser's writing is concise, clear, and entertaining -- which is a good thing, because those qualities are exactly what this book preaches. Through numerous examples from published (and unpublished) writings by Zinsser and others, he analyzes and demonstrates all the basic dos and don'ts of nonfiction writing. It's more than just basics; it's feel and muse and common sense too. The fact that this book has been in print so many years and updated so many times shows how timeless it is. Walk -- don't run -- through this book.