Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Writing Well

For Christmas, one of the gifts I received was On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This is a resource I highly recommend for all writers, regardless of the type of writing you do - yes, even bloggers.

The subtitle indicates that the book is a style guide for writing nonfiction. While this is true, fiction writers can learn a great deal from the book as well. The principles of good style apply to all writers.

One of the things I enjoyed about the book was that Zinsser didn’t universally dismiss adverbs (they often come under attack by writing guides). Instead, he advocates simplicity and specificity. If there is a verb that connotes the adverb plus verb you started with, replace the two words with one. It isn’t that adverbs are evil, but they are often used unskillfully, resulting in clutter.

Zinsser calls attention to the loose style so many of us employ without thinking. In fact, it is precisely because we fail to think that we fail to write well. Rather than questioning the words and phrases we choose, we mimic the clunky jargon that surrounds us in the media and daily conversations.

If you want to improve your writing - again, even you, bloggers - and you’re willing to honestly examine your work, this book will illuminate flaws. I plan on keeping this one on my desk next to the dictionary.

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