ON WRITING WELL PDF

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On Writing Well Pdf

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William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. On. Writing. Well. 30th Anniversary Edition. THE CLASSIC GUIDE TO. WRITING But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to. PDF | On Sep 1, , Jack Sperbeck and others published On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (6th ed.).

You will reach for gaudy similes and tinseled adjectives, as if "style" were something you could download at a style store and drape onto your words in bright decorator colors. Decorator colors are the colors that decorators come in. Resist this shopping expedition: there is no style store.

Style is organic to the person doing the writing, as much a part of him as his hair, or, if he is bald, his lack of it. Trying to add style is like adding a toupee. At first glance the formerly bald man looks young and even handsome. But at second glanceand with a toupee there is always a second glancehe doesn't look quite right. The problem is not that he doesn't look well groomed; he does, and we can only admire the wigmaker's almost perfect skill.

The point is that he doesn't look like himself. This is the problem of the writer who sets out deliberately to garnish his prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique.

The reader will usually notice if you are putting on [end of page 20] airs. He wants the person who is talking to him to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself. No rule, however, is harder to follow.

It requires the writer to do two things which by his metabolism are impossible. He must relax and he must have confidence. Telling a writer to relax is like telling a man to relax while being prodded for a possible hernia, and, as for confidence, he is a bundle of anxieties.

See how stiffly he sits, glaring at the paper or the screen that awaits his words, chewing the eraser on the pencil that is so sharp because he has sharpened it so many times. A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing. I can testify from my newspaper days that the number of trips made to the water cooler per reporter-hour far exceeds the body's known need for fluids.

On Writing Well - Bryn Mawr College

What can be done to put the writer out of these miseries? Unfortunately, no cure has yet been found. I can only offer the consoling thought that you are not alone. Some days will go better than others; some will go so badly that you will despair of ever writing again. We have all had many of these days and will have many more.

Still, it would be nice to keep the bad days to a minimum, which brings me back to the matter of trying to relax.

As I said earlier, the average writer sets out to commit an act of literature. He thinks that his article must be of a certain length or it won't seem important.

He thinks how august it will look in print.

He thinks of all the people who will read it. He thinks that it must have the solid weight of authority. He thinks that its style must dazzle.

No wonder he tightens: he is so busy thinking of his awesome responsibility to the finished article that he can't even start. Yet he vows to be worthy of the task, and, casting about for heavy phrases that would never occur to him if he weren't trying so hard to make an impression, he plunges in.

ON WRITING WELL QUOTES

Paragraph 1 is a disastera tissue of ponderous generalities [end of page 21] that seem to have come out of a machine. No person could have written them.

Paragraph 2 is not much better. But Paragraph 3 begins to have a somewhat human quality, and by Paragraph 4 the writer begins to sound like himself.

He has started to relax. It's amazing how often an editor can simply throw away the first three or four paragraphs of an article and start with the paragraph where the writer begins to sound like himself.

Not only are the first few paragraphs hopelessly impersonal and ornate; they also don't really say anything. They are a self-conscious attempt at a fancy introduction, and none is necessary. A writer is obviously at his most natural and relaxed when he writes in the first person. Writing is, after all, a personal transaction between two people, even if it is conducted on paper, and the transaction will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity. Therefore I urge people to write in the first personto use "I" and "me" and "we" and "us.

Nobody else thinks or feels in exactly the same way. They think they must somehow earn the right to reveal their emotions or their deepest thoughts. Or that it's egotistical. Or that it's undignifieda fear that hobbles the academic world. Hence the professorial use of "one" "One finds oneself not wholly in accord with Dr.

Maltby's view of the human condition" and of the impersonal "it is" "It is to be [end of page 22] hoped that Professor Felt's essay will find the wider audience it most assuredly deserves". I don't want to meet "one"he's a boring guy.

I want a professor with a passion for his subject to tell me why it fascinates him. Newspapers don't want "I" in their news stories; many magazines don't want it in their articles; businesses and institutions don't want it in the annual reports and pamphlets that they send so profusely into the American home.

Colleges don't want "I" in their term papers or dissertations, and English teachers in elementary and high schools have been taught to discourage any first-person pronoun except the literary "we" "We see in Melville's symbolic use of the white whale. Many of these prohibitions are valid. Newspaper articles should consist of news, reported as objectively as possible.

And I sympathize with teachers who don't want to give students an easy escape into opinion"I think Hamlet was stupid"before the students have grappled with the discipline of assessing a work on its merits and on external sources.

Still, we have become a society fearful of revealing who we are. We have evolved a national language of impersonality. The institutions that seek our support by sending us their brochures tend to sound remarkably alike, though surely all of themhospitals, schools, libraries, museums were founded and are still sustained by men and women with different dreams and visions. Where are these people? It is hard to glimpse them among all the passive sentences that say "initiatives were undertaken" and "priorities have been identified.

James Reston, for instance, doesn't use "I" in his columns; yet I have a good idea of what kind of person he is, and I could say the same of other essayists and [end of page 23] reporters. Good writers are always visible just behind their words.

If you aren't allowed to use "I," at least think "I" while you write, or write the first draft in the first person and then take the T's out. It will warm up your impersonal style. Style, of course, is ultimately tied to the psyche, and writing has deep psychological roots. The reasons why we express ourselves as we do, or fail to express ourselves because of "writer's block," are buried partly in the subconscious mind.

There are as many different kinds of writer's block as there are kinds of writers, and I have no intention of trying to untangle them here. This is a short book, and my name isn't Sigmund Freud.

But I've noticed a new reason for avoiding "I" that runs even deeper than what is not allowed or what is undignified. Americans are suddenly uncertain of what they think a d unwilling to go out on a limban odd turn of events for a nation famous for the "rugged individualist.

Today they perform the most strenuous verbal feats to escape this fate. Watch them wriggle through television interviews without committing themselves on a single issue. I remember President Ford trying to assure a group of visiting businessmen that his fiscal policies would work. He said: "We see nothing but increasingly brighter clouds every month.

Ford's sentence, however, was just misty enough to say nothing and still sedate his constituents. It's hard to know even where to begin picking from his vast trove of equivocal statements, but consider this one: "And yet, on balance, affirmative action has, I think, been a qualified success.

I [end of page 24] give it first prize as the most wishy-washy sentence of the decade, though a close rival would be Richardson's analysis of how to ease boredom among assembly-line workers: "And so, at last, I come to the one firm conviction that I mentioned at the beginning: it is that the subject is too new for final judgments.

Leaders who bob and weave like aging boxers don't inspire confidenceor deserve it. The same thing is true of writers. Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal.

Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. It added up to more fun than some readers might have expected.

William Knowlton Zinsser was born in Manhattan on Oct. After the fighting ended, he was able to take art history courses at a college the Army had set up in Florence. Zinsser said of the dean, Robert K. Root, in his autobiography.

He described his own life as a chain of disruptions. He lost his beloved first job at The Herald Tribune when the paper closed in He left Yale for the Book-of-the-Month Club, another uprooting. He was nervous, he said, but things worked out. Zinsser advised graduates of Wesleyan University in Connecticut in Zinsser in Then came 11 years as a freelance writer, churning out magazine articles as well as many books.

What Zinsser is doing in this book is applying a capitalist sensibility to prose. Keep it simple. Cut out the fat.

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well

Go straight for the point. This leads him to a straightforward adoption of the axioms of The Elements of Style.

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. What you will learn in this book is how to do a specific type of writing: journalistic nonfiction. This is a great skill, and Zinsser has some great advice.Edit on paper; process the full composition with a pen, then apply edits.

It's as timeless as a book can be in Yosselyn CG. It's hard to know even where to begin picking from his vast trove of equivocal statements. So if you wish to read a snappy book on snappy writing, On Writing Well satisfies.