ON WRITING WELL: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

ON WRITING WELL: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

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Zinsser, once a movie reviewer and columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, now teaches non-fiction writing at Yale. This little book--a collection of sensible tips rather than an illuminating exposition--will get the tyro's nose pointed in more or less the right direction. No one will go wrong listening to Zinsser's pleas for directness, economy, and fastidious usage, or studying his examples of good writing (culled from sources as diverse as Hunter Thompson and Berton Roueche). On more specific journalistic problems--constructing leads and endings, avoiding the sillier cliches of travel writing, ""looking for the human element"" in interviews and science writing--he is well-intentioned but not notably precise. Zinsser's own prose is spruce and serviceable, but liable to minor fatuities like ""the average businessman"" (about as exact as ""the average insect"" or ""the average planet"") and scattered with unfocused conditional verbs (""it would seem"" instead of the indicative ""it seems""). Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is still the finest work of this kind, both for its matchless simplicity of style and for its beautifully pared-down organization. Zinsser, addressing more frankly journalistic needs, doesn't pretend to rival this touchstone, but he does say a lot of sensible things with wit and dispatch.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row