On Writing Well

William Zinsser ★★★★★

I’m sceptical about style guides. Apart from brief guidelines for technical writing, I have reservations about anyone who gives detailed advice, or worse, instructions to others about writing good prose.

Prescriptive linguistics is not the way to go, and academics who try to dictate “good usage” fail to realise that language simply doesn’t work that way. Yet, there are plenty of advice in On Writing Well that I find valuable. Besides being a guide, it’s a tremendous boost of vocabulary to the non-native English speaker. I was regularly consulting my dictionary on each page of the book - and not just for obscure or arcane words, but for a better understanding of the nuances between some expressions. It is both an entertaining and inspiring read. I can definitely recommend it - but read it with a critical mindset.