Book Freak

By Mark Frauenfelder

Issue #84: Four Pieces of Advice for Improving Your Writing





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Book Freak

May 17 · Issue #84 · View online

Short pieces of advice from books

Four pieces of advice from On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser

Understand that writing is hard
“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.”
Eliminate words that don't serve a purpose
“Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose.”
Don't tell the reader "all." Tell them "some."
“Nobody turns so quickly into a bore as a traveler home from his travels. He enjoyed his trip so much that he wants to tell us all about it—and “all” is what we don’t want to hear. We only want to hear some.”
Surprise the reader
“When I tell aspiring writers that they should think of themselves as part entertainer, they don’t like to hear it—the word smacks of carnivals and jugglers and clowns. But to succeed you must make your piece jump out of a newspaper or a magazine by being more diverting than everyone else’s piece. You must find some way to elevate your act of writing into an entertainment. Usually this means giving the reader an enjoyable surprise. Any number of devices will do the job: humor, anecdote, paradox, an unexpected quotation, a powerful fact, an outlandish detail, a circuitous approach, an elegant arrangement of words. These seeming amusements in fact become your ‘style.'”
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