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On Writing Well Is a Classic for Writers of Nonfiction

With today’s proliferation of books and resources about writing, it’s hard to weed out the good ones from the hacks. Those that can be considered good should be proven to provide good advice in a structured format. They should be relevant to a range of skill levels, so no matter what your skill level is when you start, you can learn something. And the source should be able to provide a road map for growth and improvement. Eventually, you may outgrow the source, but it should take you on a journey from wherever you are to wherever you want to be.

One proven book that is well-respected in the field of nonfiction writing is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. First published in 1976, the book has sold nearly 1.5 million copies. Subsequent editions, including the 30th anniversary edition, now include the subtitle The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

Readers find it clearly written with a warm style that is engaging and informative. Mr. Zinsser’s goal is to make writing clear and straightforward. As he says in one passage, “Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

The book is divided into four sections that provide a journey for growth and help make the book a timeless classic: "Principles," "Methods," "Forms," and "Attitudes." In these sections, he covers the basics of style and usage, how to write specifically about topics such as sports and travel, and how to identify the sound of your voice (he claims that “people read with their ears, whether they know it or not.”)

Two chapters in particular caught my eye as being helpful for those who must write (reluctantly or not) in the workplace: “Business Writing: Writing at Your Job” and, for those who still need to build confidence, “Write as Well as You Can.”

On Writing Well is a resource that has proven itself over many years. It’s one that writers go back to again and again for help and inspiration. In short, it’s one that you’re not likely to outgrow.

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