IVP - Andy Unedited - Ode to On Writing Well

May 15, 2015

Ode to On Writing Well

William Zinsser, author of the classic book On Writing Well, died this week. I have recommended his book more often and sold more copies of it than any other of many excellent options. The first hundred pages are a must for anyone writing non-fiction of any kind.

He and On writing well.jpeghis book are best known for his advice to cut the clutter. As he says, "Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds--the writer is always slightly behind" (p. 13). I have a perverse pleasure in slashing all such excess when I'm copyediting. But I am happier still when I don't have to because a writer has already done it.

Rewriting is not the message many want to hear. But it is the message almost all of us need. Zinsser offers the inspiration and practical advice that will improve any writer's work.

He also explains why we should not pay attention to what others think about our writing while at the same time being very concerned. We shouldn't care about topic. If it interests us, that's all that matters. But we should care about style. "The reader is an impatient bird, perched on the thin edge of distraction or sleep" (pp. 26-27, 5th ed.). Lose your discipline and you lose your reader.

We've lost a great advocate for clear, compelling prose. His message remains.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at May 15, 2015 9:23 AM Bookmark and Share

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book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.