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On Writing Well (William Zinsser) – my reading notes

Before last year, I had actually not read academic writing books. I always loved the idea, but I never wanted to read what others had written about the topic before I developed my own writing practice. This year, I’m doing a concerted effort to read them since I am writing my own book on academic writing, time management, organisation and the life of an academic. This week, I had to pick my Mom up from the airport (she lives 2 hours away from me, by car), and thus I brought along four books I recently purchased, so that I could read them while waiting for her flight, and for her to go through customs.

One of the first books I read was William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well”. Since I hadn’t read anything by Zinsser I didn’t know what to expect. I was delighted to find the reasons why so many people love his book(s).

I love that Zinsser takes a light-hearted, easy-to-digest approach to writing about writing (beyond solely academic writing). He basically tells you his life story and how he learned the craft and techniques of writing well.

Zinsser writes short chapters that deal with a broad range of aspects of the craft of writing which are very much applicable to academic prose generation. I particularly loved that he urges his readers to READ so that they can learn to write. I have peer-reviewed hundreds of articles and I have read thousands, and I can tell you, there are very good academic writers and there are some terrible ones. Personally, I find convoluted and jargon-laden prose very boring.

Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” is a book you really ought to read and keep on your shelves for frequent consumption. He writes amazingly well and his book will help you improve your prose.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. A synthetic memorandum on advice on academic research and writing – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on July 29, 2019

    […] Warner, Germano, Rabiner and Fortunato, Zinsser, Kamler and Thomson all insist that part of your preparation includes determining the audience. […]

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