Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 29, 2009

Behind the writing scenes

William Zinnser, the author of On Writing Well, tells The American Scholar magazine how the book and its various editions came to be. Here’s one of Zinnser’s lesson that is important to remember but often difficult to practice:

I learned to delete every word or phrase or sentence that told readers something they had already been enabled to know or were bright enough to deduce. I also tried to stop using phrases like of course and adverbs like surprisingly, predictably, understandably, and ironically, which place a value on a sentence before the reader has a chance to read it. Readers, I learned, are not as dumb as the writer thinks; they must be given room to play their role in the act of writing—to discover for themselves what’s surprising or predictable or understandable or ironic. They don’t want that pleasure usurped.

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