Zinsser also dislikes qualifiers like “sort of, quite, and very”. His example of how they dilute the strength of your writing, “Don’t be”kind of” bold; be bold!” made me laugh out loud.
It turns out that starting a sentence with the word “But” is no longer verboten, especially when you’re shifting direction. According to Zinsser, there’s no stronger word to choose when you’re indicating a mood change or contrast. Forget your old middle school English classes and flatly refuse to start sentences with “however”. Instead, embrace the words “but, yet, and (one of my old favorites) nevertheless”.
Keep your paragraphs short. Zinsser explains that writing is visual, catching the eye before it reaches the brain. Given this, he feels the best writers think in paragraph units, rather than in sentence units.
Stay small so you can cover your subject thoroughly. The example he uses is Moby Dick. Melville didn’t write about whaling and seafaring men, Zinsser says. Instead, he chose to focus on one man and one whale.
This is just a taste of what you can expect from On Writing Well. The book is broken into four sections, Principles, Methods, Forms, and Attitudes. Chapters that I particularly enjoyed were those dealing with humor, travel, and memoir writing and the concluding one, “Write as Well as You Can” (ending with a fantastic quote from Joe DiMaggio). It turns out that this book has been around for thirty years and, after devouring it, I can understand why!
Sounds like a great book! I am definitely going to look for a copy. Thanks for sharing.
I think you’ll like this book a lot too Evelyn. Hope all is well with you!