On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

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

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    Rowena

    Feb 12, 2013

    rated it
    it was amazing

     · 
    review of another edition

    Shelves:
    writing

    Brilliant book!I definitely learned a lot of extremely useful advice from this book. I learned about the writing mistakes that I was making, and also how to enrich my own writing. Zinsser’s tone and sense of humour made reading the book fun and interesting. This is the kind of book I would re-read every now and then for inspiration.

    Roy Lotz

    It’s always intimidating setting out to write a review of a book on writing. One feels naked, exposed—now you have to prove that you’ve learned something. Lucky for me, I am a creature with little shame, so I’ll let my prose all hang out.

    After reading Pragmatism by the American philosopher William James, I’ve realized that some American qualities cut deep. We are a people who love action and despise abstract argument. We like to see efficiency and real-world results. We set ourselves a goal and

    After reading Pragmatism by the American philosopher William James, I’ve realized that some American qualities cut deep. We are a people who love action and despise abstract argument. We like to see efficiency and real-world results. We set ourselves a goal and go straight for it. Perhaps this American temper is part of the “Protestant Ethic,” made so famous by Max Weber. Whatever it is, it’s on full display here.

    What Zinsser is doing in this book is applying a capitalist sensibility to prose. Keep it simple. Economize. Cut out the fat. Go straight for the point. Zinsser’s approach to writing is that of a factory owner seeking to improve his business model. This leads him to a straightforward adoption of the axioms of The Elements of Style. In fact, this book is hardly more than a commentary, expansion, and application of Strunk and White’s ideas.

    I grow tired of this. The more I read, the more I realize that what constitutes good style cannot be put into a formula. It varies from person to person, from subject to subject, from country to country, and from age to age. Zinsser’s writing-style is nice enough. But I’m sure his conversational tone would sound coarse and inelegant to many readers. Where’s the poetry? Where’s the lofty argument and philosophical reflection? Of course, you can’t please everybody. What bothers me is that Zinsser doesn’t seem realize how provincial are his ideas.

    What you will learn in this book is how to do a specific type of writing: journalistic nonfiction. It’s writing well-suited to its purpose—to provide entertainment and light education for casual readers. This is a great skill, and Zinsser has some great advice. If you have aspirations to work for a newspaper or a magazine—or even write a popular non-fiction book—I would highly recommend this book.

    I have no problem with this kind of writing-style—my mother is a journalist. But it hardly runs the whole gamut of nonfiction. And for pretentious me, Zinsser comes across as a bit vulgar. His conception of language is narrow. He wishes only to hook the reader, crack a few jokes on the way, maybe include some light food for thought, and make a quick exit. It’s like an ad on TV. But often non-fiction writers have—dare I say it?—higher aspirations. And a quick-shooting, hard-hitting, punchy prose style just won’t do the trick.

    I should temper my criticisms. I’ve read too much illegible academic scrawling to be insensitive to the value of concreteness and simplicity. As general rules, they’re safe to abide by. And if you are writing as a craft—a professional email for example—then you would do well to follow Zinsser’s advice.

    Where this book falls short is Zinsser’s insensitivity to the artistic potential of the written word. He admits this himself

    I have an unbroken record of missing the deeper meaning in any story, play or movie, and as for dance and mime, I have never had any idea of what is being conveyed.

    I commend Zinsser for his honesty. But for several genres of writing, an overly-literal mindset is a death-sentence. And in any genre, a great metaphor is worth fifteen spiffy sentences and peppy paragraphs.

    At its best, non-fiction writing is more than chuckles and trivia—it can be just as profound as the best novel or poem. (Read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire if you don’t believe me.) Zinsser does have a chapter entitled “Nonfiction as Literature,” but it quickly becomes clear that he regards even Nabokov’s memoir as a kind of journalism.

    So if you wish to read a snappy book on snappy writing, On Writing Well satisfies. But be warned: this is simply an elegant articulation of one philosophy of style. And there are as many different philosophies of style as there are great writers. And Zinsser is a good writer, not a great one.

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    Francisco

    Oct 17, 2015

    rated it
    it was amazing

    How do you learn to write, really, other than by writing. But now and then, it’s good to pause and think about the art of good writing, the craft. This famous little book can be the reflective pause that will help you be care-full, love-full, with your work. The book is not just more of the same old stuff you’ve always heard. The advice given by the author is creative and his examples of good writing are informative and insightful. And because good writing is always connected to the inner life a

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