On Writing Well Summary – Classic Guide to Nonfiction

Author: William Zinsser

On Writing Well (1976) is a guidebook by a literary critic and an American author William Zinsser. In this manual, the author walks you through all the steps that are followed while a piece is written and shows you how to do better. The author talks about pre-writing, writing, and post-writing processes that can allow your writing to become unique and effective without restricting your creativity in works of non-fiction.
on writing well summary
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Detailed Summary of On Writing Well

Writing well is a guide for everyone who wants to write properly. From people who write content daily or freelance to those who want to improve their basic writing skills. The author presents advice from the perspective of a writer, literary critic, and editor because he is one.

As a contributor to many leading magazines, Zinsser knows what keeps his audience hooked to certain writings. On Writing Well is a cohesive guide that will teach you to write on topics like sports, politics, academics, medicine, business, and science without making your audience lose interest and focus.

The author tackles many issues that we face while we write, including tacky vocabulary, brain fog, unclarity, lost focus, poor sentence construction, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, and usage of century-old phrases.

You might also like to read Thank You for Arguing Summary.

On Writing Well Summary Key Points

Writing itself is intimidating. Most of us have been to colleges, and during our college life, we sit down to write several articles every day. Articles on topics we’ve read thoroughly on again and again, but when we sit down to write, the words do not come to our minds. Instead of forming coherent sentences, our brain presented us with a jumble of different words.

We have all been there, so we all know the frustration and struggle of being unable to write. This book presents to its readers some solid techniques that can be followed to write efficiently.

Keep it Simple, Keep it minimal

Less is more. No, I am not talking about the next fashion trend (although it is nice to keep it simple and minimal too). This is about your way of writing. If you want to write, something well simple is the way to go. Do not add complex words that require the reader to take out a thesaurus or dictionary.

As a beginner, you might want to add lots of adjectives and adverbs to impress your reader. This only confuses your reader and will probably give them a headache once they finish your writing.

To write clearly and simply, you need to declutter your head. If you are thinking about other tasks while writing, jot them down on a notepad. If the task is urgent, do it before you start to write. In short, the clearer you think and the more focused you are, the better you write.

Cut, Cut, and Cut

This may sound weird to you, but one of the important steps of composing something well is scratching and not adding. Get rid of the excessive articles, adjectives, and phrases in your writing. Make it coherent and short.

Do not use phrases in places where only a single word can suffice. Adding several words with the same meaning will only make your writing long and will tire your reader. Declutter your writing from unnecessary words, circular constructions, and meaningless jargon.

To become a great writer, you must learn to enjoy pressing the delete key and removing unnecessary stuff.

Use Some Eye Candy

Although it is important to write in a simple manner and with simple words, you can add an interesting phrase or idiom to spice up your writing. Try to stand out by forming a style that is different and unique. Do not use the same century-old idioms again and again. 

Do not overthink. Thinking that the final piece will meet your expectations will only limit your creativity. Be fearless and start writing. Sentence by sentence. To make yourself a bit relaxed and create flow, try writing in first-person narration first. This will push you to create a few sentences and get the ball rolling.

If you find this style of narration unfitting to your piece, you can change it later. Through such hits and trials, you will be able to find your unique style.

Choose Your Instruments Wisely

Just as a doctor chooses the instruments for an operation wisely. Choose your words with great precision. Do not over-explain. Try to be economical with words. See if every word presents something new. Try not to use words like “surprisingly,” “predictably,” and “maybe.”

Trust your information and knowledge, and use words that only show the certainty you have for the material you are presenting. Choose strong verbs and clear syntax because they are the foundation of your sentences, and sentences make up your whole text.

Do not choose long words that convey the same meaning as short words, for example: “assistance” (help) and “numerous” (many).

On Writing Well Quotes

“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.” ― William Zinsser

“As a writer, you must keep a tight rein on your subjective self—the traveler touched by new sights and sounds and smells—and keep an objective eye on the reader.” ― William Zinsser

On Writing Well Summary Review

The book is based on clarity, and well, it is written with clarity. The writing style of the author, William Zinsser, is simple and warm. It is beneficial for anyone related to academics or writing at every level due to the simple explanation that follows each technique. The On Writing Well summary is filled with great writing advice that we usually tend to overlook.

To Whom I Would Recommend On Writing Well Summary

  • To my fellow content creators who sometimes struggle with beginning to write an article.
  • Students who want to learn effective writing skills without having to deal with boring and long books written on composition.
  • To researchers who want to convey more in fewer words.

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