Book Review: “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser

Mr. Zinsser gave us the permission to write well without using big words and inhuman descriptions. The book was first published in 1976 and it has aged well like a good wine. The only shortcomings are the unfamiliar movies and books referenced. Some of the quick take-aways:
“The essence of writing is rewriting.”
“Good writing rests on craft and always will.”
Writing as a craft like carpentry.
Do two things: relax and have confidence.
There are 4 things he advocates for good writing: clear, simple, brevity, and humanity/warmth.
You should be writing for yourself, not others.
“Writing is learned by imitation.”
“Bear in mind, when you’re choosing words and stringing them together, how they sound.”
“All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem.”
“Unity is the anchor of good writing.” Unity of pronoun, tense, mood, and etc.
“The most important sentence in any article is the first one.” The fateful unit – the lead. It must capture the reader immediately. It must do some real work. Continue to build. Every paragraph should amplify the one that preceded it.

There were tips on interviews and travel articles.

On the abridged version of the audiobook, the author emphasizes the style and mostly on memoir. I learned about the distinction between memoir and autobiography is the time window difference; memoir zeros into one particular phase or era of a person’s life and autobiography covers the entire life. Definitely multiple memoirs are more interesting than one big autobiography, like Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and his follow-on memoirs. “The most interesting character in a memoir, who hope, will turn out to be the person who wrote it.” “The best gift you have to offer when you write personal history is the gift of yourself.”

Writing about sports: the values to look for: people, places time and transition.

Writing about humor: Strive for truth and hope to add humor along the way. “Ultimately we realized that the two intertwined.”

“Writing is related to character. If your values are sound, your writing will be sound. It all begins with intention. Figure out what you want to do and how you want to do it, and worth your way with humanity and integrity to the completed article.”