Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review: On Writing Well by William Zinsser

My personal kind of beat-up copy
     I read this book for the first time a few years ago in middle school, when I got it as a birthday present from  an adult who had heard I liked to write stories.  At that time I was in this phase where I believed that the more adjectives and the bigger words I used, the more authoritative I sounded.  So when William Zinsser popped out and started telling me to Simplify, simplify, simply, my first impulse was to slam the book shut. But soon I saw the value of his advice, and that is how On Writing Well changed my life and my perspective on writing.
     What really convinced me to listen to him was how well he wrote.  Zinsser has this awe-inspiringly simple voice when he writes.  Reading his book was like sitting in an English class.  It was like listening to a soft-spoken but amicable relative talk.  True to his own teachings, there was not a single unnecessary adverb or frivolous noun anywhere.  And most of all, it was fun to read.  I think anyone, not just writers, could find enjoyment in this book because he writes so well.
     His excellent writing style aside, the book proffers loads of good advice.  It starts with the basics of building a simple solid sentence and goes on to provide whole chapters on writing articles of every kind: reviews, sports writing, news, humor, travel. He tells you how to conduct an interview.  He explains the process of building a book.  He assures you that although writing is hard and lonely, it is feasible to do it well if you drop the pretenses and write as yourself.  Everything that he says about writing, I have since found to be true.
     The point of this review is that if you use writing in your life or even if you would like to, this is the book to start with.  I have gone back to it many times since middle school and it is always helpful and inspiring.
If you feel the need to add to your platform of writing knowledge, I would follow On Writing Well with  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine.


  1. OMG! I seriously need to read this! I loved writing ever since I was a kid, it gives me such pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing this, I'm gonna give it a shot right away!

  2. Aw your welcome, it's a great book :)


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