"On Writing Well" by William Zinsser

Review by Borodutch

Simplify, simplify, simplify — that's the primary mantra of the book. I like the little pieces of wisdom from 2004 that author provides, even though I don't follow them to the letter. His advice is short yet on point. Here's what William suggests the readers do to make writing better:

  • Be economical with the writing, do not use longer phrases or words where shorter ones would work. This also applies to adjectives and grammatical forms.
  • Be yourself; people buy the book because of your style and attitude, not because of the topic you write about.
  • You can only get better at writing by writing. Sit down and write, don't whine.
  • Write for yourselves, not for the readers. This will prevent writing blocks and double-guessing and make the writing more natural.
  • When writing a memoir, remember that it's not an autobiography (so it should be limited to a specific time), and describing the context can make the writing enjoyable in the distant future (by presenting the long-forgotten era).
  • Ditch the passive voice; use the active voice instead. What you've learned about how to write in school was wrong.
  • Read out loud what you write. It helps with the rhythm and style. Most people don't read writing; they listen to their inner voice read.

"On Writing Well" is excellent; I recommend picking up a copy and reviewing all the advice the author provides. It is one of the rare cases when I can say that if everybody read this book, the world would be easier to decipher.