Book Notes: On Writing Well by William Zinsser
·Dec 21, 2020·
4 min read
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I read On Writing Well earlier this year which made a huge impact on my thoughts about writing. I am revisiting my book notes and highlights in the last weeks of the year and thought I should post a summary of key takeaways from each book.
Zinsser stresses on these points when writing non-fiction.
Clear thinking leads to clear writing.
- Don't do a brain dump and publish. Organize your thoughts and present them in a cohesive manner.
- Your sentences should be simple and contain only one idea. Readers can't process more than one idea at a time.
- People care about your writing if you have something interesting to say.
- Ask the following questions before you start, to frame how your article is going to converse with the readers.
- In what capacity am I going to address the reader?
- What pronouns and tense am I going to use?
- What one point I want to make?
- How much should I cover?
- You're writing for yourself. Writing is an act of ego and your first audience is the you.
- Believe in your identity and your own opinion. Don't be afraid to take firm stance in your writing.
- You're an unique individual, try to show your uniqueness in your writing. Write about what you think and know.
- If you follow your affection and write about it, readers will engage well with your writing.
- Go after subjects that interests you, remember you're writing for yourself and if you write what interests you, readers will engage.
- First sentence is important for an article.
- Every paragraph should amplify the previous paragraph's message.
- Always collect more materials than you will use.
- Story telling is the compelling method to grab someone's attention. Look for ways to convey your writing as a narrative.
- Ending is almost as important as the beginning. When you feel you have told everything you know about a subject, you should stop.
- Don't overstate or misinform about anything in your writing. It'll undermine your credibility.
- Don't hesitate to imitate other writers. It will help you in finding your own style.
- Most first drafts can be edited and cut by 50% without losing any meaning.
- Read your writing aloud, you can identify the words that are not fitting your style and usage.
- Writing is just the first step of good writing. Rewriting is the important step.
Food for thought
The below two lines made me think a lot so I wanted to share them.
- Careers rise and fall simply because people can't clearly state an idea or a fact.
- (In writing) Quality is its own reward.
This is my first attempt in summarizing books. I have doubts about this format. Let me know what do you think.
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