Monday, June 08, 2009

Chapter Summaries from "On Writing Well" Part I

Ch. 1: The Transaction

There isn’t any one ‘right’ way to write. Different writers have intensely different experiences, and they are tense—the self that appears on paper is often much stiffer than the actual person. Good writing is all about humanity and warmth, the revealing of who the writer is in his or her enthusiasm and insight. Good writers succeed at using language with strength and simplicity. These principles may not be easily taught, but they can be learned.

Ch. 2: Simplicity

Good writing is not cluttered. Good writers clean up their work, throwing out every unnecessary word and confusing construction. The way to do this is to think clearly. You can think clearly if you make yourself do it. Readers have a lot of other things competing for their attention, and will eventually give up and find something else to read if your writing is too much trouble. Good writers remember what they are trying to say and continually critique their work to see if they are saying it.

Ch. 3: Clutter

Clutter, jargon, verbal camouflage—multiplying your words slows down the reader and comes off as pompous. Beware of using a long word when a short one would do as well. Replace two or three words with a succinct one. Guard against redundant prepositions, adjectives and adverbs, and avoid words that are fads. Don’t announce what you are going to write—just write it. Use brackets to highlight words and phrases that are not doing useful work, and then prune.

Credits-- On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Fiction by William Zinsser. I am using this book to practice writing short summaries, as well as remind myself of the book's content.

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