On Writing Well

On Amazon there are well over fifty books about writing. Favorite reference books, besides the dictionary, are Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” and “Roget’s Thesaurus.” But, these are “tool books” to help you use a better word, avoid grammatical errors, or not look stupid misspelling something, or is it “mispelling?”BOOKS_pile of

Books about writing are different. Not reference books, per se, but rather books about the reasons for writing, instruction that goes beyond the books already mentioned, exploring the feeling one gets from creating, the sense of accomplishment of knowing that you are, little by little, mastering one of the most screwed up languages among those that use Latin script. (or is it “which uses…”)

My favorite book about writing is subtitled “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” Actually, it is perhaps my favorite book, period. (or should it be…”period!” Written by Lynne Truss, it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and is famously titled, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” (or is it “Eats Shoots, and Leaves?”) Placement of the coma is critical.

A former writing teacher at Yale who writes about writing is William Zinsser. His “On Writing Well” is a must-read for anyone who wants to write well. Hence the title. (or is it “Hence, the title?”)

Another book by Zinsser, which I’m currently reading, is “Writing About Your Life.” Early on, Zinsser suggests that it’s good to start writing about something that you do, or have done, and the words and thoughts will come. That’s how I wrote this piece. (or is it “…how this piece was written?”) Note that this book of Zinsser’s is not so much a “how to” book as it is a collection of written pieces, gathered to teach by example.

I’m a stickler for punctuation; I use semicolons in text messages. That’s why I like Lynne Truss’s book so much. I also attempt to use correct sentence structure. But, I will expose a secret of mine; I cheat a bit. There are lots of tools right here on the internet to help you write well. I edited this piece in a program called “Grammarly.” It’s not free, but it works quite well. Then, there are the free, basic supports such as Dictionary.com and Thesauras.com and lots more apps and programs.

If you feel you’d like to write…or need to write…just jump in. Starting is the hardest part. And, don’t be afraid to re-write, and then re-write, as many times as necessary. Writing is work. Writing is fun.


The article you just read, is a re-write of one we published in April of 2016. In doing the revision, I made twenty-eight edits of the original. Did I mention, having patience is a good quality for a writer?

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