10 Tips on writing from legendary writer William Zinsser - Deepstash
10 Tips on writing from legendary writer William Zinsser

10 Tips on writing from legendary writer William Zinsser

Never have so many people written so profusely and with so few inhibitions. Which means that it was never really a cognitive problem. It was a cultural problem, rooted in that old bugaboo of American education: fear.

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MORE IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE

“Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.The more you keep in first person and true to yourself, the sooner you will find your style

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“Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.”

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“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.”

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Yes, the thesaurus is your friend: “The Thesaurus is to the writer what a rhyming dictionary is to the songwriter–a reminder of all the choices–and you should use it with gratitude. If, having found the scalawag and the scapegrace, you want to know how they differ, then go to the dictionary.”

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Don’t ask who your audience is…you are the audience: You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.

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For anyone who can’t stand to hear the word ‘unique’ modified, Zinsser has this to say: “…being ‘rather unique’ is no more possible than being rather pregnant.’”

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“Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”

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This helps in the search for rhythm and sound: “Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.”

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You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want.

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Study the masters but also your contemporaries: “. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”

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“Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”

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RELATED IDEAS

Write for yourself

By writing for yourself, you're more likely to write something other people will like. Readers know when your work is authentic—the best way to be authentic is to write for yourself.

When you write for yourself, the process of writing is the reward itself. If you love doing something, you'll keep on doing it.

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What it takes to write a book

The hardest part of a writer's job is sitting down to do the work. Writing happens in three phases.

  1. Beginning: You have to decide what you're going to write and how you're going to write it.
  2. Staying motivated: You will face self-doubt and overwhelm. Planning ahead will ensure you won't quit when the obstacles come.
  3. Finishing: Nobody cares if you almost wrote a book. They want to read what you actually finished.

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  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. 
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words that sound pretentious.
  5. Never write more than 2 pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

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