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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction » User review

Oft-repeated commonsense guide to effective writing

  • Nov 12, 2005
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I guess an opionion of this book really depends on your own experience with writing. I've been writing nonfiction of various sorts for more than five decades. There's nothing in Zinsser's book that I don't know or practice. On the other hand, if you're new to writing, afraid of writing or just want a reminder of what the rules are, Zinsser offers solid, can't fail advice in an easy to digest package.

Zinsser doesn't lead you into the thorny thickets of grammar: rather he tells you the basics. Write what you know. Keeps it simple and accessible to the reader. Polish what you write until only what you truly want to say is left. Good advice that virtually every writer of any kind of nonfiction must follow.

What irks me, however, is Zinsser's insistence on including his political opinions in a "guide to writing nonfiction." He includes numerous references to various Presidents and clearly states his political leanings. These references are entirely irrelevant to anything in the book. Their inclusion reminded me of Bernard Goldberg's explanation of journalist's blindness to their own political bias: since everyone around them thinks the same way, they don't think they're biased. Zinsser apparently thinks that everyone shares his political views and is blind to the fact that is not the case.

Other than this purely personal irritation, Zinsser's volume is a fine reminder of what every nonfiction writer should always remember and an excellent guide to the nervous neophyte.

Jerry

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About the reviewer
Jerry Saperstein ()
Ranked #198
I am an e-discovery strategist, computer forensics specialist and testifying expert witness - and an avid reader.      Aside from technology books, I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, … more
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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.

About the Author
William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career with the New York Herald Tribune and has long been a freelance writer for leading magazines. During the 1970s he taught writing at Yale, where he was master of Branford College. From 1979 to 1987 he was general editor of the Book-of-the-Month Club. His 15 books, ranging from jazz to baseball, also includeSpeaking of Journalism, American Places and the influential Writing to Learn. He now teaches at the New School in New York, his hometown.
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Details

ISBN-10: 0060006641
ISBN-13: 978-0060006648
Author: William K. Zinsser
Genre: Professional & Technical, Science
Publisher: Collins; 25th anniversary ed Non fiction guide edition (September 18, 2001)
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