Friday, July 26, 2013

On Writing Well with William Zinsser

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

Thanks to my blogging partner, Kate, I’ve taken a whole new interest in books that enhance and cultivate the beauty and style of writing.  Kate developed a theme when we started our blog nearly a year ago called “Reads for Writers”.   She is the partner every writer needs in her corner—because she has both a keen insight and passion for learning more about our beloved craft of writing. 

Kate has turned me on to dozens of books that are a treasure trove for both newbie and experienced writers.  My personal library now has close to 30 books written by authors for writers wanting to take their muse to the next level.  There’s nothing I love more on a rainy day than perusing my personal library of writing books and selecting one that “speaks to me”.  I then curl up in my favorite chair with a cup of hot tea and simply get lost amongst the many pages of inspiration which ultimately beckons me to kick it up a notch with my own personal and professional writing projects.

This week, the book that jumped off my bookshelf was On Writing Well written by the very keen William Zinsser.  In newsrooms, publishing houses and wherever the labor centers on honing sentences and paragraphs, you are almost certain to find among the reference works a classic guide to nonfiction writing called On Writing Well, by Mr. Zinsser.

The book, first published in 1976, grew out of a writing course that Mr. Zinsser taught for several years at Yale University.  William Zinsser is also an editor and teacher. He began his career with the New York Herald Tribune and has been a longtime contributor to leading magazines. His 17 books include Writing to Learn; Mitchell & Ruff; Spring Training; American Places; Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs; and most recently Writing About Your Life.  He now teaches at the New School, in New York, his hometown, and at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

I have reached for this book time and again when I’m feeling as though my writing is in a rut or I just plain need to visit the basics again.   William Zinsser's On Writing Well has a history of being used in writing courses. He advocates a writing style is direct, clear and crisp. He divides the book into four sections: The Principles, Methods, Forms and Attitudes. Probably the best parts are the first two. The Principles covers keeping your writing simple, removing clutter, writing for the audience, word choice and usage. The Methods covers things such as unity within the writing, the lead and ending and various other aspects of writing methods.

The section on Forms covers various specific writing techniques and styles for different forms of writing. Specifically it covers areas such as the Interview, Travel Articles, the Memoir, Business Writing and Technical Writing. If you have a specific need for one of these forms then the section has some very good advice. Finally the section on Attitude covers the required Attitude of the writer.

Throughout the book you learn that writing is indeed a craft that can be learned. Zinsser points out the most important patterns and techniques of successful writers so that you can follow their lead. This book is still one of the most recommended texts for people just beginning to learn to write and with good reason, it should be on the bookshelf of anyone serious about writing.

Are you, too, a Zinnser fan or do you have another favorite book on writing that you love to reread when you need to breathe new life into your current writing regime?

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