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On Writing Well Audio Collection

On Writing Well Audio Collection

Written by William Zinsser

Narrated by William Zinsser


On Writing Well Audio Collection

Written by William Zinsser

Narrated by William Zinsser

ratings:
4.5/5 (138 ratings)
Length:
2 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 2, 2004
ISBN:
9780060818067
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The classic works on the art of nonfiction writing are now in a complete package for your listening pleasure.

This expanded collection presents William Zinsser's On Writing Well, the classic teaching book that has sold more than 1 million copies, together with a new 90-minute section that tells you how to write a memoir.

Based on a course that Zinsser taught at Yale, On Writing Well has long been praised by writers, teachers and students for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It's for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day. Whether you want to write about people and places, science and technology, business, sports or the arts, this is the definitive guide to the craft of nonfiction.

Part II of this collection—on memoir, personal history and family history—tells you in helpful detail how to write the story of your life: who you are, who you once were, and what heritage you come from. Throughout, Zinsser refers to the work of many successful memoir writers, including Frank McCourt, Annie Dillard, Russell Baker and Eudora Welty, to demonstrate how they solved the problems of selection, compression, focus and tone that every memoir writer struggles with.

Publisher:
Released:
Nov 2, 2004
ISBN:
9780060818067
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. During the 1970s he was master of Branford College at Yale. His 17 books, ranging from baseball to music to American travel, include the influential Writing to Learn and Writing About Your Life. He teaches at the New School in New York.


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4.4
138 ratings / 38 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    On Writing Well is a simple guide for writing well. Thankfully, as a book about writing should be, it is written well. I found the advice to be accessible and ready to be applied.If you write (and you do) you should read this book.
  • (5/5)
    My job requires me to be able to write well, and this book really helped me to hone my writing skills. Zinsser's advice and techniques are concrete and specific, and after applying his suggestions and theories to my own work, I improved my style tremendously.
  • (5/5)
    Zinsser has produced an inspiring and practical manual in On Writing Well. My AP English teacher in high school recommended this book to me as a reference when I went to her asking how best to improve my own writing——obviously, I aspired to publish. I particularly enjoy Zinsser's thoughts on modern memoirs.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent book on writing and thinking about writing. Zinsser covers a wide breadth of topics, from writing memoirs, to writing about travel, to writing about sports, and more. He makes it very simple - write about people doing things, and write more like you speak than less. Good chapter on organizing a longer work as well.
  • (5/5)
    The best book on writing I've ever read. This book lightly touches on grammar, only to get it out of the way, and then is on to the act of writing. He focuses on the thought process of writing, what to write about, how to write about different subjects, and most importantly how to rewrite what you've just written. Everybody that writes, anything, should read the first section, titled "Principles". Those first fifty pages apply to all forms of writing and will serve you well. William Zinsser wrote in such an engaging style that I'll be adding at least two more of his books to my reading list. And because he talked about it so fondly I might even reread Walden, but that's a long shot.
  • (5/5)
    I stumbled upon this book as I was looking for a guide to writing essays. It looked interesting and the first few pages read well, so I bought it. Little did I know that this book would change my world view on writing and learning. In the first few chapters Mr. Zinsser sounds like an old fashioned English teacher, harping on the fundamentals and simplicity. The fact that he is right made the message easier to absorb. In the latter chapters he focuses on different kinds of writing, that is when he hooked me. Even if you never write a memoir, it is fascinating for me to read about how people go about writing one. Now I am writing my own, for my own consumption, because the process sounds like something that is enlightening and worth doing. The same is true for his chapers on art critique, sports, humor, etc.I have also gained a massive reading list from Mr. Zinsser, now I am curious to a whole new world that I was not aware of and more importantly, I did not care about. But he made me interested in these books because he made me curious about how these authors are able to communicate their message so clearly.
  • (5/5)
    The subtitle of this book is "The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction." Do not ignore this book if you are not a professional writer. This book is about clearly communicating ideas whether in email, presentations, or conversation. The book has echoes of the classic guide The Elements of Style ("Be concise") but it is not a grammar book. Wise choice of words, tense, and proper use of grammar become the tools for explaining ideas. Revisit it often to improve your communication skills.
  • (3/5)

    I first read On Writing Well as a college student 26 years ago, and because I was a photojournalism major, I remember being impressed by what amounted to my first "writer's book."

    Zinsser knows how to craft a sentence and make a point, and the overall impression is one of being taught by a patient, gray-haired professor.

    On Writing Well is aimed squarely at non-fiction writers (not surprising given Zinsser's newspaper background), and I'd suggest it's still an ideal primer for new writers.

    Initially published in 1976, On Writing Well was reissued in a 2006 "30th Anniversary Edition" which included a new section on writing memoirs.

    Overall, this book has aged fairly well (good writing is still good writing), though writers nowadays are facing new challenges, and you won't find answers to those issues here. Those looking for step-by-step guides to getting published won't find what they want here.

    Instead, Zinsser has written a nice, patient, intelligent book about writing better. It's a classic and for good reason, though it is starting to show some wear around the edges.
  • (2/5)
    Although there is a lot of great information within the book, I found myself sighing over the 'pronoun' issue and multiple references to he (as if I am he, or whom I would be interviewing as he). Even though this particular issue is discussed in the book and that it has been revised over time to be more inclusive or vague, I found that it pulled me out the experience of reading the book.
  • (5/5)
    Zissner provides a simple and thought provoking primer for writers. Though he may not provide concrete "how-to's"--as though writing were that simple--he nonetheless gives amazing encouragement for novices just beginning their trek. I have given it a 5 star rating simply for its simplicity and its accessibility. From writing manuscripts to monographs, sermons to stories, or even poetic prose; the book proves to be invaluable.
  • (4/5)
    After reading this, it is clear that Zinsser is well qualified to write such a difficult book. Writing is a "subjective experience". So to produce a how-to guide seems to be an unattainable task. Zinsser's years of experience pour through the pages leaving the impression that writing can be enjoyable and done well. I shall return to this book again and again!!!
  • (5/5)
    I've read some guides about how to write well, and they've always had such terrible advice and used such awful, vulgar examples (usually taken from their own genre fiction) that I had abandoned all hope. Ostensibly, Zinsser's book is about writing nonfiction, but it works well for every kind of writing, and is the best guide to writing I have ever read.
  • (4/5)
    This book really opens a writer's eyes on how some simple changes and adjustments with our style and convention will make us better writers. I read this one for my Abydos trainer certification and took in good advice on writing better.
  • (4/5)
    Great book on writing. Really good advice.
  • (4/5)
    Inspires the craft of and passion for writing. This will go on my reread list.
  • (3/5)
    This, along with The Elements of Style, was my summer reading for my AP English Language and Comp class. Personally, I liked this book better. We were assigned to write reviews for both of them, so here is mine for On Writing Well:

    At some point in their lives, most people will write something. Whether it is in their business, as a journalist, an author, or writing a memoir or family history, writing is present everywhere. It is an important part of society. Unfortunately, almost everyone finds it to be a difficult task that requires much practice, determination, and patience. The purpose of On Writing Well is to provide assistance to writers and help improve their craft.
    Since its publication thirty-six years ago, On Writing Well has become a popular book among aspiring writers of nonfiction. Written by William Zinsser, a former journalist for The New York Herald Tribune, professor at Yale, and a freelance writer, it was his attempt to put the curriculum of his nonfiction course into a book. He also wrote it with the intention of being a complement to The Elements of Style, the go-to manual of writers. It has received much praise and has become known as one of the most important books on writing.
    The book contains twenty-five chapters divided into four parts. Each part covers an important topic of writing: principles, methods, forms, and attitudes. The chapters in Principles cover the basics of writing, such as writing style, word usage, and preventing clutter. Methods expands upon the topics covered in Principles by providing a guide on how to keep your writing together, as well as tidbits of how grammatical terms should be used. In Forms, each chapter covers a different type of nonfiction writing, including interviews, travel articles, business writing, sports, and humor. Attitudes concludes the volume by discussing writing voice, decisions, and emotions that writers experience.
    Zinsser uses a wide variety of nonfiction works as examples throughout his book. An excerpt from E.B. White’s “The Hen (An Appreciation)” is used to demonstrate how each author should write for himself and use words they would use in conversation. Part of Joan Didion’s article “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” is used to provide an example of how a travel article should be written, with all of the details doing useful work.
    Works written by Zinsser and his experiences as a professor are often used as reference points. One of my favorite examples in the book was the story of his Audubon article on Roger Tory Peterson, a legendary birdwatcher. He describes how he was requested to write the article and initially refused because it was a subject with which he was unfamiliar. After watching a documentary on Peterson, he was inspired to take up the project. In the process, he learned Peterson was a very interesting man. An artist as well as an ornithologist, Peterson’s artistic skill led him to be discovered by millions across America. The main advice given by the author in this story was to think broadly about each assignment. I thought that not only was it an interesting and well written story, but it was also a good way to convey the message.
    One of the greatest advantages of On Writing Well is that it is surprisingly readable at some points. Although it is definitely not the ideal page-turner, it isn’t dreadfully boring either. The lackluster parts of the book are made up for by the excellent tidbits of advice as well as an enticing writing style that is commanding and concise but not harsh. One major annoyance I had with the book was the rather long middle section. The chapters provide guides for many different types of writers, but it was rather irritating to have to read through so many examples of writing and not much actual advice. I also think it would be difficult for most students below college level to read this volume. In addition, many of the pop culture references Zinsser uses did not make sense to me. I think that the book would be more helpful to a younger audience if a newer edition was published with updated references for the current generation. The book was very helpful overall though; I used it quite a bit as reference for writing this very review. I would recommend On Writing Well for anyone who does any sort of writing in their life, but more towards more experienced writers than those starting on the writing journey.
  • (3/5)
    Zinsser is a patronizing fellow with sub-par organizational skills, but one with a point: writing well is applying common sense to structured communication. Some of the chapters are a little insulting, weaving freely to and from ironic hypocrisy, but well-chosen excerpts swoop in to save the day. A mixed bag, mostly good.
  • (5/5)
    Clarity. Simplicity. Brevity. Humanity.
  • (5/5)
    Everyone who fancies themself a writer should be forced to read this book at least once in their career.
  • (5/5)
    Hands down, the best book I've ever read on the craft of writing non-fiction. A book I've owned for fifteen years, I still return to it; still find new things to learn from it. It never fails to inform and inspire.
  • (4/5)
    I came late to this classic and I'm glad I caught up with it eventually. It's one of those rare books that starts well and gets better. Particularly so as Zinsser's warmth and enthusiasm emerge through his writing - this is a key learning point as well as a pleasure for the reader. Some fine examples too, not least from Zinsser's own work. His analysis of an article about his trip to watch the arrival of a salt caravan is both instructive and joyful.
  • (4/5)
    I was forced to purchase this book for a course I took, but I didn't sell it back. It was amusing and very informative.
  • (4/5)
    Zinsser's writing is concise, clear, and entertaining -- which is a good thing, because those qualities are exactly what this book preaches. Through numerous examples from published (and unpublished) writings by Zinsser and others, he analyzes and demonstrates all the basic dos and don'ts of nonfiction writing. It's more than just basics; it's feel and muse and common sense too. The fact that this book has been in print so many years and updated so many times shows how timeless it is. Walk -- don't run -- through this book.
  • (5/5)


    And essential book for learning how to write, how to appreciate (the act of) writing and the written word - clean and clear prose, and that which is not; and how to do both with intelligence and relaxed compassion.
  • (5/5)
    From my Cannonball Read 6 review ...

    I love participating in Cannonball Read for a few reasons. I didn’t know AlabamaPink, but I followed her on Pajiba and am happy to support fundraising in her name. I love that CBR motivates me to pick up a book instead of a video game or magazine, and I know I wouldn’t have read nearly as many (mostly good) books in the last 18 months without it. But one benefit I didn’t fully understand until recently is that CBR gives me the chance to improve my non-fiction writing on a weekly basis. This latest read has been particularly useful with that goal.

    My husband read ‘On Writing Well’ and thought I’d enjoy it. It bodes well for a book that aspires to be a guide to writing nonfiction that it is so easy to read. Mr. Zinsser wrote the first edition of this book in 1976, but has updated it many times, most recently about eight years ago. It is well-organized, fun to read, and most importantly filled with fantastic advice, as my notebook filled with quotes from it confirms.

    A few of Mr. Zinsser’s suggestions are obvious, but that doesn’t mean most people actually follow them. One thing he pushes for repeatedly is to take a stand and remove the passive voice. Until graduate school many of my instructors required that I write in the passive voice; thankfully that changed but I still find myself having to work at using my voice in my writing, especially at work. I don’t think I’m alone in that, and it’s nice to get some advice on being even stronger with my word choice.

    But there’s so much more in this book than Mr. Zinsser’s enthusiasm for active sentences. He provides great examples to support his point that we should be crafting sentences, paragraphs and pieces that readers want to read. We shouldn’t be looking for the longest synonym or the most clauses in a sentence; we should tell the story in a way that works for us. He offers great advice to get us there; a few of my favorites are:
    •“What do your readers want to know next? Ask yourself that question after every sentence.”
    •“Examine every word you put on paper. You'll find a surprising number that don't serve any purpose.”
    •“Most adverbs and adjectives are unnecessary.”
    •“Clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity.”

    Unfortunately, while Mr. Zinsser understands and reinforces the power of language, he seems to only allow that power in so far as he agrees with it. He mentions that he used to use ‘he’ as his generic pronoun, but feminists convinced him that such usage was sexist, and so he changed his style. He saw that not using a gender-neutral form whenever possible reinforced the idea that male is the default, and female the anomaly. But in other areas he suggests that being careful with language is just ‘political correctness’ and dismisses it. The specific example he uses – expressing his distaste for the term undocumented resident and preference for the term illegal alien – shows that he still chooses his words based on his political inclination. He sees the error in his ways on gender, but apparently not yet on nationality. That is disappointing.

    Despite that one (important) area where Mr. Zinsser and I disagree, I know that much of what he wrote is solid advice. Hopefully as I incorporate his suggestions my writing – for Cannonball Read, for work, and for my own blog – will improve. Or, I should say, I will improve my writing.
  • (5/5)
    I am so glad I read this! I wish I could have shared bits and pieces--or even whole chapters--with writers I know. It is a book to be read once--and then read again--and again. At some point I will probably read another of his advice books.
  • (5/5)
    What a masterpiece. Short and sweet I’ll definitely listen to this book again and again.
  • (5/5)
    This book is "pure gold". Wonder- and helpful content, great writer/narrator.
  • (5/5)
    There is a wealth of good writing advice packed in this audio book. I found the chapters that dealt with writing a memoir filled with practical insights and inspiration.
  • (2/5)
    weird order of playback. the main book consists of way more chapters than on this audiobook, sadly.