Goodreads Review: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well

Having had the good fortune of taking writer and teacher extraordinaire William Zinsser’s last class on memoire at The New School, it is a privilege to reprint this review of his classic book On Writing Well which I posted recently on Goodreads.

Full of wit, humor and wisdom, Bill Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well belongs next to every writer’s Elements of Style. After digesting Bill’s crisply-written prose, you’ll look at every sentence differently, and remove all the little words that do nothing but expand the word count and distract the reader.

I think of Bill as a literary economist; or maybe a gardener whose word-pruning allows the story to blossom, unstrangled by those little weedy words that are used so often they’re taken for granted.

Whenever editing, I think of Bill’s exhortations to “Spend your adjectives and adverbs wisely.” Why write, “‘I’m sorry,’ Joe said apologetically,'” when, “‘I’m sorry,” Joe apologized,'” works even better? Why “look up to someone” when you can “admire them?”

And his reprint of a review about James Michner’s prose had me howling for hours. On Writing Well is as educative as it is entertaining. No matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, every chapter is relevant. And if you read it years ago, the updated section about Email is more timely than ever.