On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

I’m not sure if I feel more or less confident about beginning to write after reading this book. LOL. I think I went back and forth in feeling like I could really do this, and then thinking that there is no way I have what it takes. The author, William Kinsser, is a genius for writing this book- it has become a staple in most journalism/writing classes around the country. Kinsser is quite empowering—he seems to believe than anyone can and should write. It just takes time, patience, and hard work.

No matter how little or how much you write on a daily basis, this book would be a helpful one to peruse once, and then have close by on a bookshelf for reference. Although he thinks that writing is writing- no matter what kind of non-fiction writing you are doing- he devotes a chapter to some of the major areas in hopes of helping people in their individual areas. The forms he covers are interviews, travel articles, memoirs, science and technology, business writing (just writing in your job, whether that be memos, emails, instruction manuals, etc.), sports, and humor.

The big point that I took away with me was that the key to good writing is rewriting. Nobody writes perfectly the first time around. Every writer must go back and redo pages, cut paragraphs, rework sentence structure, and choose new words to use. I think this both relieving and stressful for me. When I finish a project, I tend to want to be done with it completely- especially if it was hard. On the other hand, the perfectionist tendency in me is relieved to know that I don’t have to do it perfect the first time.

In addition to forms and attitudes of writing, Kinsser offered helpful guidelines and ideas on principles of writing such as word choice, keeping the audience in mind, style, simplicity, unity, and beginning and ending an article or other piece of writing.

Overall, practice makes perfect. Some people are better writers than others, but for the most part, writers are made, not born.

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