On Writing Well

by William Zinsser

Rating: ★★★★

The focus of this book is in teaching you how to find a concise and clear style of writing. Zinsser spends very little time going over the basic mechanics of writing, and plunges on into what makes writing work, pulling out examples of both good and bad writing from a wide variety of topic areas, leaving aside only the realms of fiction.

Zinsser's book is unsurprisingly well-written. He indulges the reader by writing his chapters so that they are playful illustrations of the concepts he teaches, be that concept word usage or the power of a personal narrative. By dishing out both heartfelt praise and crabby distaste for various passages he manages to keep his human touch through what could easily have been a dry and academic topic. There are some faults with the book: it has clearly been extended beyond its original remit, and there are several chapters which feel isolated from the others whilst simultaneously being unnecessary, each covering a particular area of writing with advice which merely reiterates that at the book's core.

On Writing Well dedicates itself to writing with frank simplicity, and a nod to charm. Frankly and simply, then, this book has good advice well-presented, and what it contains does not age.