On Writing Well

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher.

Part II : Methods


Therefore ask yourself some basic questions before you start. For example: “In what capacity am I going to address the reader?” (Reporter? Provider of information? Average man or woman?) “What pronoun and tense am I going to use?” “What style?” (Impersonal reportorial? Personal but formal? Personal and casual?) “What attitude am I going to take toward the material?” (Involved? Detached? Judgmental? Ironic? Amused?) “How much do I want to cover?” “What one point do I want to make?” 

The Lead and the Ending

But take special care with the last sentence of each paragraph—it’s the crucial springboard to the next paragraph. Try to give that sentence an extra twist of humor or surprise, like the periodic “snapper” in the routine of a stand-up comic. Make the reader smile and you’ve got him for at least one more paragraph. 

The first is the lead of a piece called “Block That Chickenfurter”:  I’ve often wondered what goes into a hot dog. Now I know and I wish I didn’t. 

But narrative is the oldest and most compelling method of holding someone’s attention; everybody wants to be told a story. 

For the nonfiction writer, the simplest way of putting this into a rule is: when you’re ready to stop, stop. 

Bits & Pieces

The subconscious mind : Frequently a solution will occur to you the next morning when you plunge back in. While you slept, your writer’s mind didn’t. 

Part III : Forms

Business Writing

Preoccupied with their high technology, they forget that some of the most powerful tools they possess—for good and for bad—are words.