I finally got round to starting On Writing Well by William Zinisser yesterday and I’m loving it. I knew I would like it when I saw the names of some of the first chapters — Simplicity, Clutter, Style, The Audience, Words, Usage.
It starts with emphasising that it’s hard to write well. The skill in keeping things simple and stripped back. Thinking through the order in which you say things. Making sure sentences and paragraphs fit together well. Removing the unnecessary.
He makes the point that readers have an attention span of about 30 seconds, so there is no room for confusing them. If you make the reader work too hard, you’ll lose them to someone else.
Here is a fantastic example from the book of how writing can become tighter and simpler:
How awesome is that? I can’t think of a better way to show how unnecessary words and sentences creep into writing.
It’s a reminder to me that I’ve become lazy in my writing. I rarely do any editing and forgot that it is the most important part of writing. Carefully removing unnecessary chunks and words. Changing the order of things. Sometimes deciding not to publish the post at all.
I’m looking forward to finishing the book. Even in just the first few chapters, I have a renewed motivation to improve my writing!