On Writing Well by William Zinsser
PART I Principles
1 The Transaction
Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.
Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time.
Be grateful for everything you can throw away.
Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.
5 The Audience
You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.
I write entirely by ear and read everything aloud before letting it go out into the world.
和我一起唱，预备，齐—— let it go, let it go …
Good usage, to me, consists of using good words if they already exist—as they almost always do—to express myself clearly and simply to someone else.
PART II Methods
As for what point you want to make, every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he or she didn’t have before. Not two thoughts, or five—just one.
9 The Lead and the Ending
If something surprises you it will also surprise—and delight—the people you are writing for, especially as you conclude your story and send them on their way.
10 Bits & Pieces
Go with your interest: no subject is too specialized or too quirky if you make an honest connection with it when you write about it.
PART III Forms
11 Nonfiction as Literature
Ultimately every writer must follow the path that feels most comfortable. For most people learning to write, that path is nonfiction.
Fiction or nonfiction, 这是一个值得考虑的问题.
12 Writing About People: The Interview
Nothing so animates writing as someone telling what he thinks or what he does—in his own words.
13 Writing About Places: The Travel Article
“I don’t think children are too young to appreciate what that ship (battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor) represents,” Magee told me. “They’ll remember it if they see the leaking oil—if they see that the ship is still bleeding.”
14 Writing About Yourself: The Memoir
Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition.
15 Science and Technology
The principle of sequential writing applies to every field where the reader must be escorted over difficult new terrain.
16 Business Writing: Writing in Your Job
If you work for an institution, whatever your job, whatever your level, be yourself when you write.
(The best sportswriters) they avoid the exhausted synonyms and strive for freshness elsewhere in their sentences.
18 Writing About the Arts: Critics and Columnists
“Well,” the man from Texas would break in, “let’s not go peeing down both legs.” (about expressing your opinion firmly.)
(Humor) it’s an attempt to say important things in a special way that regular writers aren’t getting said in a regular way—or if they are, it’s so regular that nobody is reading it.
PART IV Attitudes
20 The Sound of Your Voice
A woman with taste in clothes delights us with her ability to turn herself out in a combination that’s not only stylish and surprising, but exactly right. She knows what works and what doesn’t.
21 Enjoyment, Fear and Confidence
Writers who write interestingly tend to be men and women who keep themselves interested.
22 The Tyranny of the Final Product
Moral: any time you can tell a story in the form of a quest or a pilgrimage you’ll be ahead of the game. Readers bearing their own associations will do some of your work for you.
23 A Writer’s Decisions
As a nonfiction writer you must get on the plane. If a subject interests you, go after it, even if it’s in the next county or the next state or the next country. It’s not going to come looking for you.
24 Writing Family History and Memoir
Your biggest stories will often have less to do with their subject than with their significance—not what you did in a certain situation, but how that situation affected you and shaped the person you became.
25 Write as Well as You Can
A reporter once asked him how he managed to play so well so consistently, and he (Joe DiMaggio) said: “I always thought that there was at least one person in the stands who had never seen me play, and I didn’t want to let him down.”
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