On Tuesday, the writing world lost one of its greatest mentors when William Zinsser passed away at the age of 92. Now, I say mentor not because I knew Zinsser, but because he was such an inspiration to many, many writers.
After toiling away in the bowels of a customer service call center, I went back to school to be a journalist at age 26. Zinsser’s seminal book “On Writing Well” was one of the first books I purchased to inspire me in this brave, new writing world.
This 1976 bible, which I’ve long since dogeared, has served as inspiration to writers both professional and amateur, showing them how to be more concise in expressing themselves through the written word. I credit Zinsser with laying the groundwork that was later reiterated by my professors and editors about “trimming the fat” in my writing, a practice I’ve since carried on with the writers I work with.
So to this man, who was also a journalist, teacher, critic and editor, I dedicate this week’s Writers’ Wisdom. Thank you for the tutelage, Mr. Zinsser, you’ve impacted more lives than you probably even know — and played an integral role in helping to shape this writer into someone who can now, proudly, call herself a true journalist and editor.
Without further ado, my favorite lesson from “On Writing Well:”
“Clutter is the disease of American writing.
We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”