On Writing Well – Part 1: Principles

I finished reading the introduction and part one of “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. Some people call it “the writers bible.” Check out the reply I got on Twitter:

LyzaJo said: @miltownkid I call that book the writers bible…if u want more writing books let me know!

The book has been entertaining so far and I’ve already learned a few things. I plan on writing a review like this for each section of the book.

Part 1: Principles

There are seven chapters:

  1. The Transaction
  2. Simplicity
  3. Clutter
  4. Style
  5. The Audience
  6. Words
  7. Usage

This is what I’ve taken away from the introduction and the above chapters fresh from reading them and in no particular order.

  • Writing is hard work.
  • Everyone has different problems with and methods for writing.
  • Master the basics before trying to be all fancy.
  • Read what you write out loud.
  • Read high quality stuff that you aspire to be like.
  • Rewrite the rewrite and rewrite it again. Then rewrite it one more time. No, probably two or three to be safe.
  • Get rid of unneeded words.
  • Know how to properly use words.
  • Know the definitions of words.
  • Own a thesaurus and use it.
  • Read “The Elements of Style” at least once a year.
  • Be yourself.
  • You are your audience.


A part of me wants to add a lot more to the points above. Examples, analogies or thoughts, but I won’t. I’m going to leave them as they are (except for some rewrites 😉 ). The reason is, I wanted to write a “quick” post and move on to other parts of my life (more reading, getting food in my belly or relaxing).

I think it’s time to go eat.

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4 Responses to On Writing Well – Part 1: Principles

  1. miltownmom says:

    Write on!

  2. sandra says:

    just so happens Steve Pavlina wrote a writing piece you could be interested in. You can get it here: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/page/2/
    The article is called How I write dated December 6, 2010. He is a prolific blogger writer.

  3. Recessive says:

    Awesome. Would love to have a summary type review on each part of the book. Looks pretty good and might pick it up soon if I get the chance. I know everyone throws around book titles when these type of posts come up, but I remember that my dad swore by the book ‘words and ideas’ during his college years and is constantly shoving it in my face while writing. If you get the chance, its an excellent ‘back to the basics’ explanation on topics from summarizing effectively to the suggested frequency of irony and sarcasm in types of written media. Its only 1 cent on amazon (minus shipping hehe) so check it out if you get the chance:


    Would love to see some formal essay writing from you btw, and it would be great practice! Keep on keeping on.

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