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

Category: Communication

(7 von 100)

Why: I want to want to write.
Goal: find out what “well-written” looks like.

Action: Cut 50% of what you wrote and do it again!

3 Key Concepts

  1. Don’t write what you would not say.
  2. Put “you” in it.
  3. Writing allows us to re-live our life.


I love this book.

It is probably the effect of William’s writing that makes it so pleasing to listen to the audiobook. He really lives his teaching; 4 writing principles.

  1. Clarity: main prize of writing, clear writing is a result of clear thinking.
  2. Simplicity: use simple words “many” instead of “numerous”.
  3. Brevity: don’t give them what they do not need
  4. .Humanity: put “you” in it.

If you might add, add it. If it should be pointed out, point it out. If it is interesting to note, make it interesting; are we not all stupefied by what follows when someone says, “This will interest you”?

– William Zinsser

Clarity is the main prize. One must constantly ask oneself “what’s the point?” The framework is to put each sentence to new useful work. And at the same time, be careful not to overload the sentence by giving it more than 1 work at a time.

Simplicity is a trait of mastery. Many are tempted to show their educational prowess by using long and convoluted adjectives and adverbs. Many non-native English speakers like me might be guilty of searching for synonyms that sound cool but redundant.

Brevity was the opposite of what we did at school. In high school English class, we wrote many homework essays. And they needed to reach a certain words count, so all we did was adding meaningless phrases. haaa haaa jokes on you.

Humanity in your writing, the audience read and listen to you because you are you. “I” is the most interesting part of your story. That is why William suggested that you should not write something you would never say in person. A good practice is to use “I” in your first draft. If it is not allowed, then later change them to other first-person pronouns, like you or we.

Finally, be realistic with your writing, even the most skillful writers will not write a perfect first draft. The main effort is in editing and re-writing! That’s where Magic happens. I will make this my writing ritual. To come back and rewrite them. Enjoy and re-living!

Two things happened with the arrival of the word processor: good writers got better and bad writers got worse.

William Zinsser
news typewritten on white paper
Re-write it again. And again!

Goal check: I found out how far away my writing is from “well-written”. (*cry a thousand rivers) but put up with me guys, I am improving it!!!

Wasu’s Review
( 5.0 / 5.0 )

Get this book on Amazon here!

Bonus: “The Craft of Writing Effectively” by Larry McEnerney from UChicago

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.