On Writing Well

William Zinsser

Anant Jain
Jul 8, 2018 · 4 min read
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Most writing is full of unnecessary words and those extra words make it harder and less enjoyable to read.

The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he is hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the lead.

Nouns that express a concept are commonly used in bad writing instead of verbs that tell what somebody did. Here are three typical dead sentences: The common reaction is incredulous laughter. Bemused cynicism isn’t the only response to the old system. The current campus hostility is a symptom of the change.

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. Use its energy to keep yourself going. You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.

You won’t write well until you understand that writing is an evolving process, not a finished product. Nobody expects you to get it right the first time, or even the second time. Rewriting is the essence of writing. I pointed out that professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten.

Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Surprisingly often they don’t know. Then they must look at what they have written and ask: have I said it?

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.


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“A vintage analogue typewriter with a white plain paper” by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Anant Jain

I write reviews of non-fiction books and essays on…

Anant Jain

Written by

Tech, startups, engineering, product design, etc. Now @brexhq . Past: Co-founder @commonlounge . @iitdelhi ’12. Moved from Medium to https://anantja.in

Anant Jain

I write reviews of non-fiction books and essays on startups, fitness, tech and design.

Anant Jain

Written by

Tech, startups, engineering, product design, etc. Now @brexhq . Past: Co-founder @commonlounge . @iitdelhi ’12. Moved from Medium to https://anantja.in

Anant Jain

I write reviews of non-fiction books and essays on startups, fitness, tech and design.

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