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William Zinsser Teaches His Readers: Less is More in Writing

Updated on November 11, 2016

“Clear Thinking Becomes Clear Writing”

William Zinsser, a journalist and teacher of writing who published the book On Writing Well, informs his audience of the clutter that occurs in American writing. An excerpt from his book Simplicity offers his readers plentiful examples of how we can cleanse our writing. Zinsser draws his readers in by explaining the “clotted language” used in insurance pamphlets and children’s toy instructions. Zinsser mentions that in American writing it seems that a more complex sentence with excessive adverbs and adjectives is more appealing. But Zinsser says that the secret to good writing is to “strip every sentence to its cleanest components.” To achieve this level of writing one must be able to de-clutter their thinking. A distracted writer leads to incomprehensible writing therefore writers undertake several revisions before their work is published. Zinsser states in his essay that readers have a short attention span making the importance of clean writing crucial to appeal to their intended audience.

What Are We Trying to Say?

Zinsser explains that writers must establish their purpose before they begin writing. A writer must learn to adjust their use of language when writing to allow their readers to comprehend it easily. Through my own experiences of learning to write I have found that one of the common characteristics of scholarly writing is to write as if the audience has no knowledge of your topic. This is when outlines come in handy. A good writer is one who outlines and edits their work because writing is a process. If the author lacks clear intention or thought, then the readers will have difficulty as well. Zinsser confesses that good writing does not come easily and that it takes time to develop clear writing. A writer achieves this by identifying the areas in their work that need improvement. Writing is a process that takes effort and concentration. Zinsser mentions that writing is no easy task and not every person obtains the skill. I believe that Zinsser means that writing is a developed skill; the more we write the better we become.

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