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On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction [Format Kindle]

William Zinsser
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Présentation de l'éditeur

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

Biographie de l'auteur

William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. During the 1970s he was master of Branford College at Yale. His 17 books, ranging from baseball to music to American travel, include the influential Writing to Learn and Writing About Your Life. He teaches at the New School in New York.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Le livre qu'il faut lire pour s'améliorer à l'écrit 29 décembre 2007
Par lco
"On Writing Well" s'intéresse à l'écriture de tous ces genres qu'on regroupe en français sous le terme d'essais et documents pour les distinguer des oeuvres de fiction. Les anglosaxons ont forgé le terme de nonfiction, sans-doute plus précis.

Zinsser traite les principales catégories de nonfiction: l'article de presse, le récit de voyage, la description de lieu, le sport, l'art, la science et la technique et bien sur l'écriture au travail.

L'auteur fait partie de ce courant pour lequel la simplicité et la sobriété sont les seules marques du talent. En cela il rejoint W. Strunk, l'auteur de "The Elements of Style", cet autre classique de l'art de bien écrire. Zinsser nous encourage donc à ré-écrire plusieurs fois afin de supprimer les lourdeurs, les redondances et le jargon.

Ce livre s'est imposé comme un incontournable depuis sa publication initiale dans les années 70. Ses rééditions régulières depuis cette date témoignent de son succès. La lecture de l'ouvrage confirme la pertinence de cette reconnaissance: l'écriture de Zinsser est limpide et précise, formulant son propos avec clarté.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.7 étoiles sur 5  394 commentaires
290 internautes sur 296 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 In response to the criticism that Zinsser "generalizes egregiously about topics that are enormous" 23 avril 2012
Par A fellow with a keyboard - Publié sur
The most damaging (but fair) criticism I've heard of this book came from reviewer D. Fineman who said, "He generalizes egregiously about topics that are enormous. ... He feels free to judge -- for instance scientists -- outside his field."

I agree that Zinsser does these things, but I disagree that it is a problem. In fact, if I have one criticism of the book it is exactly the opposite: that the lessons are even more generalizable and broadly applicable than Zinsser gives them credit for. For instance, if you skip the travel writing chapter, or if you read it thinking that it only applies to travel writing, then you will miss two golden and persuasive arguments that ought to apply to *any* writer:

1) The things that come to the writer easiest -- cliché, excessive detail, syrupy and vague language -- are the things that keep the reader bored/detached/passive.

2) Your main task as a writer is to distill the essence of whatever you're writing about--to find its central idea, to describe its distinctive qualities using precise images. In other words, your main task is to work excruciatingly hard.

The goal of any writer (yes, any) ought to be to transform the reader from a passive observer into an ally. It's excruciatingly hard to do, but once you realize that that's the goal, and once you realize that the parts that come easiest are what's getting in the way of that goal, then you can start writing well.

Zinsser knows these things, and he articulates them beautifully. It is one of the most persuasive books I have read, on any subject. But I hate that the lessons are hidden within topic-specific chapters. Please read with that in mind.
91 internautes sur 106 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A CLASSIC GUIDE TO WRITING WELL 15 mai 2007
Par Mike Klaassen - Publié sur
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, is meant to compliment The Elements of Style by Stunk and White. In Zinsser's own words "The Elements of Style is a book of pointers and admonitions: do this, don't do that. What it didn't address was how to apply those principles to the various forms that nonfiction writing and journalism can take."

Although the book is organized in four parts, the content could really be summarized in two categories:

· Writing principals, methods, and attitudes

· Guidelines for specific forms of nonfiction, including travel, humor, business, sports, arts, memoirs, and family history.

Subjects addressed include: rewriting, craft vs. art, humanity and warmth, clutter, simplicity, finding a style, clichés, rhythm, unity, tone, and attitude. All of these are covered with the insight of a successful writer having decades of experience.

The author works some biographical information and experiences into the text, but the focus of the material is on writing well. Given that the first edition was in 1976, some of the examples and attitudes are dated, but they also add to the charm of the book.

No recaps or exercises are included at the end of the chapters, but an index is provided for easy reference.

As the subtitle indicates, the book is specifically directed at nonfiction writing, but many of the concepts also apply to fiction. With over a million copies sold, and in its thirtieth anniversary edition, much of the information has already been worked into other writing guides. As envisioned by Zinsser, On Writing Well compliments The Elements of Style. Together, they make a great combination.
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very good - but know what you're getting 16 mai 2012
Par D. Motta - Publié sur
First, note the title: On Writing Well. That is how one titles an essay. It is NOT a technical book that will lay out how to write. It's a collection of well written essays about different factors that will help you write better. The negative reviews are a bit ridiculous in their complaints because they expected something other than what the book is (ironically a lot of them are poorly written as well). If you're a professional writer, this probably won't do much for you. If you like writing and want to clean up your craft a little with this collection of tips, then it'll be great for you. And I'm assuming most of us here don't get paid to write so 5 stars it is.
498 internautes sur 628 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 I am sorry to disagree.... 21 septembre 2009
Par D. Fineman - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I usually only write reviews for books I can praise. I actively avoid giving criticism about books that have, as this one does, a large and enthusiastic following. I feel compelled to write now because I think that many will not be as well served as they imagine after reading these reviews.

I think this book is popular for many understandable and, in themselves, good reasons. The writer is up-beat and optimistic. He supplies simple formulas for complex problems. He has both wit and charm. He supplies many funny stories. He makes fun of pompous academics and pedagogues. He is empathetic and warm. His instructions are personal, not distant or abstract. He requires little of the reader and avoids pesky formalities. For all these reasons, one should be attracted to a non-fictional book of reminiscence about writing. However, all these virtues are not those of a book teaching writing.

Indeed, many dislike books that try to teach writing because the majority are rigorous, boring, and impersonal. So, it is no wonder that against those demanding and dry texts this humane presentation appears as an oasis. However, it is a mistake to think that those emotional values make this a good writing text.

This book's relation with writing is much like a movie's relation with its topic: a narrative about a thing more than an instruction. For instance, "Field of Dreams" may make us happy, but it hardly is likely to make us better baseball players. Here most of Zinsser's time is expended in context, quotation of others, and folksy tale. These are topped off with a brief commands - "Go to it" - that have a cheerleader's enthusiasm and lack of content. He celebrates one style, his own, which is short and informal to the exclusion of the hundreds of others that have graced our language. He gives little help with formal discourse. He feels free to judge -- for instance scientists -- outside his field and beside the point. He makes numerous grammatical errors and seems to recognize the dash as the only punctuation. He generalizes egregiously about topics that are enormous and yet undefined, for instance "the human element."
In short, he is less an instructor and more a coach.

As I said, his many strengths have understandably broad appeal, but this book would be inadequate for the college classes I teach. You may not need such formal help and that is fine as long as you do not think it appears here.
21 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Pleasantly Surprised 13 juin 2006
Par EconFan - Publié sur
I purchsed this book because I was looking to write better at work (I'm a management consultant). As I began reading, I quickly realized that it was not the "don't put prepositions at the end of a sentence" (although, he actually debunks that somewhat)...Point being, I learned so much more about writing than I ever thought I would, and the benefits accrued immediately -- the following Monday, I could see the results already (and so could my Boss). And the book is a pleasure to read -- it makes you more conscious of how writer's write, making reading other author's less pleasurable now , or at least realizing their flaws more readily. I would highly recommend this book to those who want to be better writers, no matter their ultimate goal, and even those who just love reading, and want to better understand the craft of writing.
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