On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Language: English

Pages: 0


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Based on a course William Zinsser taught at Yale and his long experience as a writer, editor and teacher, On Writing Well has been praised by journalists, teachers, writers, students, and grateful users since its publication in 1976.

Read by Zinsser with warmth, humor, and encouragement, On Writing Well shows how to apply the author's four principles of writing: Clarity; Simplicity; Brevity; and Humanity. He stresses the importance of reading your writing aloud to hear how it sounds and illustrates the difference between good and bad nouns, and good and bad verbs. Specific examples are given throughout the recording that show how writing can be improved.

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computer circuits and has four kinds of memory himself. Another personal method is to weave a scientific story around someone else. That was the appeal of the articles called “Annals of Medicine” that Berton Roueché wrote for many years in The New Yorker. They are detective stories, almost always involving a victim—some ordinary person struck by a mystifying ailment—and a gumshoe obsessed with finding the villain. Here’s how one of them begins: At about 8 o’clock on Monday morning, Sept. 25,

What must be said for James A. Michener is that he wears you down. He numbs you into acquiescence. Page after page of pedestrian prose marches, like a defeated army, across the optic tract. It is a Great Trek from platitude to piety. The mind, between the ears, might as well be the South African veld after one of the devastations of Mzilikazi or the “scorched earth” policy of the British during the Boer War. No bird sings and the antelope die of thirst. And yet Mr. Michener is as sincere as

chitchat of leave-taking. The person being interviewed, off the hook after the hard work of making his or her life presentable to a stranger, thinks of a few important afterthoughts. When I asked whether I had seen everything, Peterson said, “Would you like to see my collection of birds?” I said I certainly would. He led me down an outside staircase to a cellar door, which he unlocked, ushering me into a basement full of cabinets and drawers—the familiar furniture of scientific storage,

since she was a girl on her grandparents’ farm. It was a good American subject, valuable as social history. But nobody can write a decent article about the disappearance of small towns in Iowa; it would be all generalization and no humanity. The writer would have to write about one small town in Iowa and thereby tell her larger story, and even within that one town she would have to reduce her story still further: to one store, or one family, or one farmer. We talked about different approaches,

replenished when I get back home. As a nonfiction writer you must get on the plane. If a subject interests you, go after it, even if it’s in the next county or the next state or the next country. It’s not going to come looking for you. Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it. 24 Writing Family History and Memoir One of the saddest sentences I know is “I wish I had asked my mother about that.” Or my father. Or my grandmother. Or my grandfather. As every parent

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