On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.
Gem of a book; too bad idiots can't see past the typo
I find it hilarious that Necro1775 is bashing On Writing Well because of single typo (which the author wasn't even responsible for) when I spotted a major misspelling in his comment. If you don't know the difference between "then" and "than," or if you don't bother to revise your writing, you have no business writing reviews.
Great ideas, with a curmudgeonly attitude
This is one of the better books I have read on writing nonfiction. Most “how to write” books assume the writer wants to put out a best-seller or a great novel. I am writing a book on communication, so Zinsser’s hints were right in place.
You can tell he is a successful writer of the old school, because he is uncompromising in his style and acceptance. We newbies cannot always afford to do that, but it is good to keep in mind what his lofty goals for us are, and to realize the differences in writing style with nonfiction.
The book definitely drags a bit mid-section, as Zinsser relies too much on expansive quoting of others. The first third, focusing on the basic elements, and the last third, where he gives some broad concepts, are better. I especially liked his annotated article on Timbuktu, which brought his whole approach together.
If you want to write nonfiction, this is the guidebook for you. For fiction fans, this will give you some good ideas, but is missing the stylistic aspects that make fiction ring.
On Writing Well
The book starts strong, ends a bit mediocre.
But the writing itself is absolutely delightful.