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William Zinsser’s 5 tips for becoming a better writer

Mallary Jean Tenore published her blog “William Zinsser’s 5 tips to becoming a better writer” on Jan. 4, 2011. Here is the condensed version of her blog.

To read the whole blog, follow this link. 

1. Learn to take readers on a journey
Too often, Zinsser said, people become so preoccupied with writing well that they clutter their stories with unnecessary words that lead readers astray. Good writers make every word count, and they avoid abstractions.

2. Think of writing as a process, not a product
“The main problem is that you need to write the damn thing.” When writers focus on the end product, they can lose sight of what the story is and why they’re telling it. Zinsser advises writers to instead focus on the process of writing — organizing the parts of a story, crafting a lead, making revisions. If you view writing as a process, Zinsser said, the product will take care of itself.
3. Write for yourself, not others
“The only way to write something good is to write what you want to write and believe in the validity of its subject and don’t give a damn about anybody else,” Zinsser said.

4. Have confidence in yourself as a writer
“Speak up. You’re not going to be a journalist if no one can hear you.” Zinsser said. “You learn to write by believing in who you are.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously
“I think people take writing too seriously,” Zinsser said. “They just need to relax a little and have a good time.” The key, he believes, is to take your work seriously, but not to take yourself too seriously.

Buy William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well. “One of the best books I ‘had’ to read in college,” said Barbra Kamer, PRSSA Advisor and Communications Project Manager for Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

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