On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing NonfictionOn Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Knowlton Zinsser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about writing non-fiction. At the same time–surprising for me at least– it is a book about writing interesting, beautiful and artistic non-fiction. I am a researcher myself and I write a lot of professional text. But as a researcher I was never educated in writing well. This is the book I was missing. It pointed me to a lot of mistakes that I have done in my writing for many years –not grammatical but aesthetic and literary mistakes.

This is probably not the best book out there about the topic– And I notice some of the reviewers are not very happy with the writing style and personality of Zinsser. But it is a book that covers most aspects of writing that I needed. I am very satisfied with it and will probably read it in the future– I have already made a check list for my own writing based on the topics from this book.

A central point of the book is simplicity- a topic that is repeated many times in the book in different chapters. Editing your text is essentially about eliminating the unnecessary. Clear writing comes from a clear mind and from clear ideas. It comes from many rounds of editing and refining and eliminating clutter.

A second central point is about being genuine. We often take on a completely different personality when we start writing. We become formal, or try to be funny– and nervous. It is difficult to relax and be yourself when you write for an audience. This mistake is what eventually makes your writing suck. Other points in the book are about using a rich vocabulary, having unity at different levels, create good leads and ends etc. If you write a lot professionally, and think writing is boring, I recommend you read this book. It gets 4 stars because it got a bit boring towards the end.

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