On Writing Well

Writing down thoughts

A colleague recently recommended On Writing Well, by William Zinsser to me. She had just read it and found it to be very impactful on her writing. At first, I was hesitant to pick it up. My nighttime reading usually consists of a celebrity biography or, let’s be honest, three episodes of Scandal.

However, after diving into chapter one, I found On Writing Well to be full of easy to digest, real world (and job!) applicable advice. It truly left me re-thinking my entire writing process. Throughout the entire book, Zinsser offers gems of knowledge on everything about writing – like how to edit your own work and when to use adverbs. Here are five of my favorite tips.

1. Similar to clothing, writing is not one size fits all. There are all different kinds of writers and different kinds of writing methods. Don’t feel disappointed or unsure of yourself if someone else’s method doesn’t work for you. Any method that helps you say what you want to say is the right method for you.

2. The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Go back through your writing and remove any words that aren’t necessary or don’t strengthen the sentence.

3. The introduction of your writing piece is one of the most critical sections. It must capture the reader, engage them so they keep reading and provide hard details that tell the reader why the piece was written and why they should read it.

4. Prune out the small words (a bit, a little, kind of, rather, quite). Every little qualifier makes the reader trust you less and less.

5. Always write with: clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity. I thought this was such a simple and easy to remember checklist that you can run every piece of writing through!

 

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