On Writing Well
For this particular post, I am not creating original content because I came across some notes I had from a book that contains some excellent writing advice. This from a man who knows what he’s talking about, William Zinsser. These notes are from his book, On Writing Well, a great read for any writer, in my opinion. Simple but especially useful, practical writing advice. Below are highlights I discovered in this book. Some of this we have heard before but I am a believer that it never hurts to hear good advice repeatedly. Read on...
- Four basic rules for non-fiction creative writing:
- A simple style of writing is actually the result of very hard work.
o Don’t clutter sentences with excess words; they’re like weeds in a garden.
- Most writing can be cut by 50%
o Most adverbs are unnecessary – the verbs should be meaningful and explicit. Adjectives are just decoration. Use sparingly.
- Every component in a sentence should do useful work.
o Sentences should be perfectly clear without excessive words. Cut to the bones.
o Short sentences keep a reader’s interest rather than long involved ones. The reader processes one thought or idea at a time. A sentence can hold too much.
- Humanity is crucial. Be natural – be yourself.
o Don’t use words you wouldn’t use in conversation.
- Don’t use vague generalizations to lead into the subject.
o Readers like to identify with the writer.
- Express an interest in the subject – show your enthusiasm.
o Write as well as you would talk, as well as you can in good English.
- Writing is imitation – write with the style of someone you admire.
o Listen to what you write – the alliteration, rhythm, cadence – How does it sound?
- Try not to write like everyone else.
o Avoid cliches – replace with something fresh – surprise.
o Avoid ambiguity – clear changes of direction are important. The writer needs to provide a transition.
- Don’t confuse or delay the reader or you’ll lose him.
o Aspire to be careful – write then read aloud and listen. If it doesn’t please you, do it again.
- Make music with sentences.
- When giving information, truth is interesting.
o Trust your material to explain the point. Don’t condescend to the reader (don’t explain what you wrote), let the writing explain itself.
o Be sincere. Your best credential is self-integrity.
- In your narrative, tell your story. Make serious points through the story, but not too seriously.
o Don’t be a pompous bore – keep it human.
- When interviewing someone, write by quoting what the person is thinking, feeling, remembering, and how they talk.
o Learn to interview & make the arrangement of what they say later. Take time to establish trust.
- Be clear, simple, brief but be true to yourself.
I hope you find this information as useful as I have with my writing. With regards to this book by Zinsser, I do recommend reading it if you haven’t as there is more to it than just my notes above.
Happy reading, happy writing!