On Writing Well: A Book Review

If anyone asked me for writing advice, I would have a hard time not insisting they read On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This book illustrates the hardship and beauty of what its title entails; what I learned from it extends beyond the importance of writing well. 

Read well and you will speak well;  writing envelops the two: that’s what I gathered. 


Zinsser hits and hints at the fundamentals of writing, why principles like simplicity, decluttering, style development, and clarity greatly matter. He is excellent in associating reading with writing, and writing to speaking. For how one speaks, especially aspiring writers, is a window to one’s relationship with words. 

On Writing Well by William Zinsser
On Writing Well book review

That gives On Writing Well plenty to shoulder in maintaining relevance from its initial publishing year: 1976. A few years short of surviving half a century on the shelves, and exceptionally–for its insights on writing derives strength from the material it uses (words)– it is marked in only graduating. 


From its talk and inculcation of choosing the right word, to narrowing down interests to one thing or idea, inviting personal anecdotes, revealing despairs and fears that come in and with writing, On Writing Well remains hot news. 

The note taker, shop-goer, or personal assistant, can capture the inspirational touch of this book and see writing differently when they return to their regular doings. For as long as I have trusted the pen…this book reminds me how to revisit writing systematically, yet primitively, and mostly personally. 

Indeed, it calls for a classical sensibility with things, and practice patience with writing. With serious practice good writing gets there. Zinsser immediately approaches the new reader of the unrelenting importance of the fundamentals, for example: Clutter; one of my favorite chapters. Similar to a meditation expert, Zinsser reveals how to embrace the basics, to master blueprinting an idea with foremost a clear mind.

Yes, less is more. But Zinsser also guides the reader to see how great storytelling can actualize with “more” and “less” swapping places. He covers both sides of the spectrum, the utility of techniques, the tools and rules and many styles of writing, resources, experience, how the writer takes on writing, and how it traverses into–despite its monotonous phases and pitfalls—something subtly enriching, sublime. 

On Writing Well


Loosely autobiographical, stern, gentle–a grandparent-like loving energy on self-expression; a profound hall for writers, and everyone is welcome. The book is a cool whisper about the writing life.

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