William Zinsser: “Writing English as a Second Language”

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Here’s a helpful article on writing by William Zinsser (via The American Scholar).

“I have four principles of writing good English. They are Clarity, Simplicity, Brevity, and Humanity.”

“Make a point of reading writers who are doing the kind of writing you want to do…. Study their articles clinically. Try to figure out how they put their words and sentences together. That’s how I learned to write, not from a writing course.”

“Clarity, brevity, and sequential order will be crucial to your success. I emphasize this because the biggest problem that paralyzes students is not how to write; it’s how to organize what they are writing…. The epidemic I’m most worried about isn’t swine flu. It’s the death of logical thinking.”

“One maxim that my students find helpful is: One thought per sentence…. Be grateful for the period. Writing is so hard that all of us, once launched, tend to ramble. Instead of a period we use a comma, followed by a transitional word (‘and,’ ‘while’), and soon we have strayed into a wilderness that seems to have no road back out. Let the humble period be your savior. There’s no sentence too short to be acceptable in the eyes of God.”

Read the full article here: “Writing English as a Second Language.”


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