William Zinsser Famous Quotes & Sayings

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100 William Zinsser Famous Sayings, Quotes and Quotation.

William Zinsser Sayings: I like Catch-22, Gravity's Rainbow and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for instance, I like Catch-22, Gravity's Rainbow and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, for instance, because the authors of those three surrealistic novels - Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon and Robert Pirsig - invented their own rules, knowing that the old ones wouldn't do the job they had in mind.
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William Zinsser Sayings: If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Simplify, simplify. Simplify, simplify.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Thought is action in rehearsal. Thought is action in rehearsal.
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William Zinsser Sayings: A writer is obviously at his most natural and relaxed when he writes in the A writer is obviously at his most natural and relaxed when he writes in the first person. Writing is a personal transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and the transaction will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Good writers are visible just behind their words. Good writers are visible just behind their words.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with "but." If that's what Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with "but." If that's what you learned, unlearn it - there's no stronger word at the start. It announces a total contrast with what has gone before, and the reader is thereby primed for the change.
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William Zinsser Sayings: It's no fun to think about infinity and no cinche to write about it. Again, It's no fun to think about infinity and no cinche to write about it. Again, it helps to look for some human link.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Writing can be taught or learned in the vacuum. We must say to students in Writing can be taught or learned in the vacuum. We must say to students in every area of knowledge: "This is a how other people have written about this subject. Read it; study it; think about it. You can do it too.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Not everybody has a talent for painting, or for the piano, or for dance. But Not everybody has a talent for painting, or for the piano, or for dance. But we can write our way into the artist's head and into his problems and solutions. Or we can go there with another writer.
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William Zinsser Sayings: To defend what you've written is a sign that you are alive. To defend what you've written is a sign that you are alive.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all.
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William Zinsser Sayings: If a good word already exists, there is no need to invent something painful. If a good word already exists, there is no need to invent something painful.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Thinking clearly is a conscious act that writers must force on themselves, Thinking clearly is a conscious act that writers must force on themselves,
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William Zinsser Sayings: Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it, if Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it, if necessary, by pure willpower. Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things that people do
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William Zinsser Sayings: Don't fight such a current if it feels right. Trust your material if it's taking Don't fight such a current if it feels right. Trust your material if it's taking you into terrain you didn't intend to enter but where the vibrations are good. Adjust your style accordingly and proceed to whatever destination you reach. Don't become the prisoner of a preconceived plan. Writing is no respecter of blueprints.
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William Zinsser Sayings: If a philosophical writer cannot be followed, the difficulty of his subject can be placed If a philosophical writer cannot be followed, the difficulty of his subject can be placed only in mitigation of his offense, not in condonation of it. There are too many expert witnesses on the other side.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is such lonely work that I try to keep myself cheered up. If something Writing is such lonely work that I try to keep myself cheered up. If something strikes me as funny in the act of writing, I throw it in just to amuse myself. If I think it's funny I assume a few other people will find it funny, and that seems to me to be a good day's work.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Writers and learners will write better and learn more if they understand the "why" of Writers and learners will write better and learn more if they understand the "why" of what they are studying.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Readers must be given room to bring their own emotions to a piece so crammed Readers must be given room to bring their own emotions to a piece so crammed with emotional content; the writer must tenaciously resist explaining why the material is so moving.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill rode to glory on the back of the strong declarative Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill rode to glory on the back of the strong declarative sentence.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Nobody told all the new computer writers that the essence of writing is rewriting. Just Nobody told all the new computer writers that the essence of writing is rewriting. Just because they're writing fluently doesn't mean they're writing well.
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William Zinsser Sayings: If the nails are weak, your house will collapse. If your verbs are weak and If the nails are weak, your house will collapse. If your verbs are weak and your syntax is rickety, your sentences will fall apart.
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William Zinsser Sayings: I never think of him as a scholar assaulting me with how much he knows, I never think of him as a scholar assaulting me with how much he knows, but as a teacher eager to share a lifelong passion for the subject.
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William Zinsser Sayings: A simple [writing] style is the result of very hard work. A simple [writing] style is the result of very hard work.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Truth needs no adornment. Truth needs no adornment.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Don't annoy your readers by over-explaining--by telling them something they already know or can figure Don't annoy your readers by over-explaining--by telling them something they already know or can figure out. Try not to use words like "surprisingly," "predictably" and "of course," which put a value on a fact before the reader encounters the fact. Trust your material.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Don't be kind of bold. Be bold. Don't be kind of bold. Be bold.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Good writing is lean and confident. Good writing is lean and confident.
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William Zinsser Sayings: There is no minimum length for a sentence that's acceptable in the eyes of God. There is no minimum length for a sentence that's acceptable in the eyes of God.
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William Zinsser Sayings: The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds. The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds.
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William Zinsser Sayings: And so, at last, I come to the one firm conviction that I mentioned at And so, at last, I come to the one firm conviction that I mentioned at the beginning: it is that the subject is too new for final judgments.
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William Zinsser Sayings: A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing. A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Much of my writing has taken the form of a pilgrimage: to sacred places that Much of my writing has taken the form of a pilgrimage: to sacred places that represent the best of America, to musicians and other artists who represent the best of their art.
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William Zinsser Sayings: As baggage I would be taking along a number of strong opinions on why so As baggage I would be taking along a number of strong opinions on why so many Americans don't learn to write and why they live in so much fear of trying. One of them has to do with English teachers. Under the American system, they are the people who teach our children to write. If they don't, nobody will. They do it with dedication, and I hope they'll be rewarded, if not here on earth, at least in heaven, for there's almost no pedagogical task harder and more tiring than teaching somebody to write. But there are all kinds of reasons why English teachers ought to get some relief. One is that they shouldn't have to assume the whole responsibility for imparting a skill that's basic to every area of life. That should be everybody's job. That's citizenship.
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William Zinsser Sayings: Don't say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed Don't say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be tired. Be confused. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don't hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.
William Zinsser Sayings: Eloquence invites us to bring some part of ourselves to the transaction. Eloquence invites us to bring some part of ourselves to the transaction.
William Zinsser Sayings: You'll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words You'll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want
William Zinsser Sayings: Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess or Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess or murkiness has crept into their style.
William Zinsser Sayings: Avoid the ecstatic adjectives that occupy such disproportionate space in every critic's quiver - words Avoid the ecstatic adjectives that occupy such disproportionate space in every critic's quiver - words like "enthralling" and "luminous."
William Zinsser Sayings: If you lose the dullards back in the dust, that's where they belong. You don't If you lose the dullards back in the dust, that's where they belong. You don't want them anyway.
William Zinsser Sayings: Nouns now turn overnight into verbs. We target goals and we access facts. Train conductors Nouns now turn overnight into verbs. We target goals and we access facts. Train conductors announce that the train won't platform. A sign on an airport door tells me that the door is alarmed. Companies are downsizing. It's part of an ongoing effort to grow the business. "Ongoing" is a jargon word whose main use is to raise morale. We face our daily job with more zest if the boss tells us it's an ongoing project; we give more willingly to institutions if they have targeted our funds for ongoing needs. Otherwise we might fall prey to disincentivization.
William Zinsser Sayings: Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes. Clutter is the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes.
William Zinsser Sayings: All your clear and pleasing sentences will fall apart if you don't keep remembering that All your clear and pleasing sentences will fall apart if you don't keep remembering that writing is linear and sequential, that logic is the glue that holds it together, that tension must be maintained from one sentence to the next and from one paragraph to the next and from one section to the next, and that narrative - good old-fashioned storytelling - is what should pull your readers along without their noticing the tug.
William Zinsser Sayings: All writers should strive to deliver something fresh-something editors or readers won't know they want All writers should strive to deliver something fresh-something editors or readers won't know they want until they see it.
William Zinsser Sayings: People read with their ears, whether they know it or not, People read with their ears, whether they know it or not,
William Zinsser Sayings: Also bear in mind, when you're choosing your words and stringing them together, how they Also bear in mind, when you're choosing your words and stringing them together, how they sound. This may seem absurd: readers read with their eyes. But in fact they hear what they are reading far more than you realize.
William Zinsser Sayings: Some people write by day, others by night. Some people need silence, others turn on Some people write by day, others by night. Some people need silence, others turn on the radio. Some write by hand, some by typewriter or word processor, some by talking into a tape recorder. Some people write their first draft in one long burst and the revise; others can't write the second paragraph until they have fiddled endlessly with the first.

But all of them are vulnerable and all of them are tense.
William Zinsser Sayings: writing is a sanity-saving companion for people in times of grief, loss, illness, and other writing is a sanity-saving companion for people in times of grief, loss, illness, and other accidents of fate.
William Zinsser Sayings: My work has been the education I avoided. My work has been the education I avoided.
William Zinsser Sayings: As a writer you must keep a tight rein on your subjective self - the As a writer you must keep a tight rein on your subjective self - the traveler touched by new sights and sounds and smells - and keep an objective eye on the reader.
William Zinsser Sayings: Tips can make someone a better writer but not necessarily a good writer. That's a Tips can make someone a better writer but not necessarily a good writer. That's a larger package - a matter of character. Golfing is more than keeping the left arm straight. Every good golfer is a complex engine that runs on ability, ego, determination, discipline, patience, confidence, and other qualities that are self-taught. So it is with writers and all creative artists. If their values are solid their work is likely to be solid.
William Zinsser Sayings: The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.
William Zinsser Sayings: It's a memoir of various events in my own life, but it's also a teaching It's a memoir of various events in my own life, but it's also a teaching book: along the way I explain the writing decisions I made. They are the same decisions that confront every writer going in search of his or her past: matters of selection, reduction, organization and tone.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writers can write to affirm and to celebrate, or they can write to debunk and Writers can write to affirm and to celebrate, or they can write to debunk and destroy; the choice is ours.
William Zinsser Sayings: Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity. Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.
William Zinsser Sayings: There are all kinds of writers and all kinds of methods, and any method that There are all kinds of writers and all kinds of methods, and any method that helps you to say what you want to say is the right method for you.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is not a special language that belongs to a few sensitive souls who have Writing is not a special language that belongs to a few sensitive souls who have a 'gift for words'. Writing is the logical arrangement of thought. Anyone who thinks clearly should be able to write clearly
about any subject at all.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writers must constantly ask: what I am trying to say? Surprisingly often, they don't know. Writers must constantly ask: what I am trying to say? Surprisingly often, they don't know.
William Zinsser Sayings: Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he or she didn't have before. Not two thoughts, or five - just one. So decide what single point you want to leave in the reader's mind.
William Zinsser Sayings: Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it's because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives. Think small and you'll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga.
William Zinsser Sayings: Today the outlandish becomes routine overnight. The humorist is trying to say that it's still Today the outlandish becomes routine overnight. The humorist is trying to say that it's still outlandish.
William Zinsser Sayings: I think a sentence is a fine thing to put a preposition at the end I think a sentence is a fine thing to put a preposition at the end of.
William Zinsser Sayings: Vulnerability has a strength of its own. Vulnerability has a strength of its own.
William Zinsser Sayings: You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and You can solve most of your writing problems if you stop after every sentence and ask: what does the reader need to know next?
William Zinsser Sayings: The writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to The writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to run the race.
William Zinsser Sayings: ...being "rather unique" is no more possible than being rather pregnant. ...being "rather unique" is no more possible than being rather pregnant.
William Zinsser Sayings: When you're ready to stop, stop. If you have presented all the facts and made When you're ready to stop, stop. If you have presented all the facts and made the point you want to make, look for the nearest exit.
William Zinsser Sayings: Even a poor translator couldn't kill a style that moves with such narrative clarity. Even a poor translator couldn't kill a style that moves with such narrative clarity.
William Zinsser Sayings: One of underestimated tasks in nonfiction writing is to impose narrative shape on an unwieldy One of underestimated tasks in nonfiction writing is to impose narrative shape on an unwieldy mass of material.
William Zinsser Sayings: Probably no subject is too hard if people take the trouble to think and write Probably no subject is too hard if people take the trouble to think and write and read clearly.
William Zinsser Sayings: Go to your desk on Monday morning and write about some event that's still vivid Go to your desk on Monday morning and write about some event that's still vivid in your memory. It doesn't have to be long - three pages, five pages - but it should have a beginning and an end. Put that episode in a folder and get on with your life. On Tuesday morning, do the same thing. Tuesday's episode doesn't have to be related to Monday's episode. Take whatever memory comes calling; your subconscious mind, having been put to work, will start delivering your past. Keep this up for two months, or three months, or six months. Don't be impatient to start writing your "memoir" - the one you had in mind before you began. Then, one day, take all your entries out of their folder and spread them on the floor. (The floor is often a writer's best friend.) Read them through and see what they tell you and what patterns emerge. They will tell you what your memoir is about - and what it's not about.
William Zinsser Sayings: But apart from these lazinesses of logic, what makes the story so tired is the But apart from these lazinesses of logic, what makes the story so tired is the failure of the writer to reach for anything but the nearest cliche'. "Shouldered his way," "only to be met," "crashing into his face," "waging a lonely war," "corruption that is rife," "sending shock waves," "New York's finest," - these dreary phrases constitute writing at its most banal. We know just what to expect. No surprise awaits us in the form of an unusual word, an oblique look. We are in the hands of a hack, and we know it right away, We stop reading.
William Zinsser Sayings: It is possible that the artists are sane and the world they are painting is It is possible that the artists are sane and the world they are painting is crazy.
William Zinsser Sayings: The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn't induce The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn't induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn't induce him to continue to the third sentence, it's equally dead.
William Zinsser Sayings: I've singled out the humanities and the sciences because they are regarded as natural opposites, I've singled out the humanities and the sciences because they are regarded as natural opposites, even natural enemies. But this is oversimplifying to make a point. Between English at one end of the spectrum and chemistry at the other are many subjects, like economics, that are a mystery to both camps.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is thinking on paper Writing is thinking on paper
William Zinsser Sayings: The writer who cares about usage must always know the quick from the dead. The writer who cares about usage must always know the quick from the dead.
William Zinsser Sayings: Journalism is writing that first appears in any periodic journal. Journalism is writing that first appears in any periodic journal.
William Zinsser Sayings: All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem. All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writing and learning and thinking are the same process. Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.
William Zinsser Sayings: Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy?
William Zinsser Sayings: Many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who Many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better ... Forget the competition and go at your own pace. Your only contest is with yourself.
William Zinsser Sayings: I use "perpetrated" because it's the kind of word that passive-voice writers are fond of. I use "perpetrated" because it's the kind of word that passive-voice writers are fond of. They prefer long words of Latin origin to short Anglo-Saxon words - which compounds their trouble and makes their sentences still more glutinous. Short is better than long. Of the 701 words in
William Zinsser Sayings: Mind in language are inseparable. If we violate our language we violate ourselves. Mind in language are inseparable. If we violate our language we violate ourselves.
William Zinsser Sayings: Writing wasn't easy and wasn't fun. It was hard and lonely, and the words seldom Writing wasn't easy and wasn't fun. It was hard and lonely, and the words seldom just flowed.
William Zinsser Sayings: There are some writers who sweep us along so strongly in their current of energy--Normal There are some writers who sweep us along so strongly in their current of energy--Normal mailer, Tom Wolfe, Toni Morrison, William F. Buckley, Jr., Hunter Thompson, David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers--that we assume that when they go to work the words just flow. Nobody thinks of the effort they made every morning to turn on the switch. You also have to turn on the switch. Nobody is going to do it for you.
William Zinsser Sayings: If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to If you would like to write better than everybody else, you have to want to write better than everybody else. You must take an obsessive pride in the smallest details of your craft. And you must be willing to defend what you've written against the various middlemen - editors, agents and publishers - whose sights may be different from yours, whose standards not so high.
William Zinsser Sayings: Scholarship hath no fury like that of a language purist faced with sludge. Scholarship hath no fury like that of a language purist faced with sludge.
William Zinsser Sayings: But what if we fail' they ask, whispering the dreaded word across the Generation Gap But what if we fail' they ask, whispering the dreaded word across the Generation Gap to their parents. 'Don't' they whisper back. What they should say is 'Don't be afraid to fail. Failure isn't fatal
William Zinsser Sayings: Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience - every Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience - every reader is a different person.
William Zinsser Sayings: But nothing has replaced the writer. He or she is still stuck with the same But nothing has replaced the writer. He or she is still stuck with the same old job of saying something that other people will want to read.
William Zinsser Sayings: Not every oak has to be gnarled. Not every oak has to be gnarled.
William Zinsser Sayings: I don't like to write, but I take great pleasure in having written - in I don't like to write, but I take great pleasure in having written - in having finally made an arrangement that has a certain inevitability, like
William Zinsser Sayings: Writing is the handmaiden of leadership. Writing is the handmaiden of leadership.
William Zinsser Sayings: I almost always urge people to write in the first person ... Writing is an I almost always urge people to write in the first person ... Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it.
William Zinsser Sayings: What I want to do is to make people laugh so that they'll see things What I want to do is to make people laugh so that they'll see things seriously.
William Zinsser Sayings: Memoir is the art of inventing the truth. Memoir is the art of inventing the truth.
William Zinsser Sayings: Nobody becomes Tom Wolfe overnight, not even Tom Wolfe. Nobody becomes Tom Wolfe overnight, not even Tom Wolfe.