More William Zinsser

Another great quote today from William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (and no apologies – it’s genius and the only reason I’m not quoting the whole thing at you sentence by sentence is my high regard for copyright law):

‘The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what – these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.’

It might sound as though he’s arguing for the most basic, utilitarian style, but as you can see, in his hands simplicity is poetry. He’s not afraid of repetition (five ‘every’s in the extract above), and he uses long words where they say exactly what he wants to say and there’s no shorter equivalents (‘adulterants’).

I find myself studying the way he writes perhaps even more closely than what he’s actually writing about.