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William Zinsser

Good writers are visible just behind their words.

William Knowlton Zinsser (born October 7, 1922) is an American writer, editor, literary critic, and teacher. He began his career as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked as a feature writer, drama editor, film critic, and editorial writer, and has been a longtime contributor to leading magazines.

SourcedEdit

On Writing Well (Fifth Edition, orig. pub. 1976)Edit

  • Writing is thinking on paper, or talking to someone on paper.If you can think clearly, or if you can talk to someone about the things you know and care about, you can write - with confidence and enjoyment.
    • Introduction, p. vii.
  • This is a book by a writer who does some teaching, not a book by a teacher who does some writing, and one of the satisfactions of the craft is that there's always something new to learn.
    • Introduction, p. viii.
  • Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks to "personalize" the author.
    • Chapter 1, The Transaction, p. 6.
  • We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.
    • Chapter 2, Simplicity, p. 7.
  • Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do.
    • Chapter 2, Simplicity, p. 12.
  • Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there.
    • Chapter 3, Clutter, p. 13
Tom Wolfe
Nobody becomes Tom Wolfe overnight, not even Tom Wolfe.
  • Nobody becomes Tom Wolfe overnight, not even Tom Wolfe.
    • Chapter 4, Style, p. 20.
  • A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing.
    • Chapter 4, Style, p. 21.
  • Good writers are visible just behind their words.
    • Chapter 4, Style, p. 23.
  • You are writing for yourself.
    • Chapter 5, The Audience, p. 26.
  • If you lose he dullards back in the dust, you don't want them anyway.
    • Chapter 5, The Audience, p. 26.
  • Make a habit of reading what is being written today and what has been written before. Writing is learned by imitation.
    • Chapter 6, Words, p. 36.
  • The writer who cares about usage must always know the quick from the dead.
    • Chapter 7, Usage, p. 45.
  • It's a fitting irony that under Richard Nixon "launder" became a dirty word.
    • Chapter 7, Usage, p. 47.
  • All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem.
    • Chapter 8, Unity, p. 49.
  • My roster of the new literature, in short, would include all the writers who come bearing new information and who present it with vigor, clarity and humanity.
    • Chapter 9, Nonfiction as Literature, p. 61.
  • Journalism is writing that first appears in any periodic journal.
    • Chapter 9, Nonfiction as Literature, p. 61.
  • Be a writer. Write things down.
    • Chapter 10, Writing About People: The Interview, p. 70
Hunter S. Thompson
Journalism is writing that first appears in any periodic journal.
  • I've never heard anybody smile.
    • Chapter 10, Writing About People: The Interview, p. 74.
  • People and places are the twin pillars on which most nonfiction is built. Every human event happens somewhere, and the reader wants to know what that somewhere was like.
    • Chapter 11, Writing About Places: The Travel Article, p. 80.
  • Probably the finest travel book ever written by an American is Walden, though Thoreau only went a mile out of town.
    • Chapter 11, Writing About Places: The Travel Article, p. 91.
  • If you write for yourself, you'll reach all the people you want to write for.
    • Chapter 12, Writing About Yourself: The Memoir, p. 98.
  • Memoir is the art of inventing the truth.
    • Chapter 12, Writing About Yourself: The Memoir, p. 99.
  • Good writing is lean and confident.
    • Chapter 13, Bits & Pieces, p. 114.
  • Never hesitate to imitate another writer - every person learning a craft or an art needs models. Eventually you'll find your own voice and will shed the skin of the writer you imitated.
    • Chapter 13, Bits & Pieces, p. 136.
  • The best way to learn to write is to study the work of the men and women who are doing the kind of writing you want to do.
    • Chapter 13, Bits & Pieces, p. 136.
  • Pure nonsense is a joy forever, as Keats didn't quite say. I love to see a writer flying high, just for the hell of it.
    • Chapter 20, Humor, p. 246.
  • The writers job is like solving a puzzle, and finally arriving at a solution is a tremendous satisfaction.
    • Chapter 21, A Writers Decisions: Organizing a Long Article, p. 254.
  • You must find some way to elevate your act of writing into entertainment.
    • Chapter 22, Write as Well as You Can, p. 276.

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