Iliyana's Blog

Favourite Quotes from "On Writing Well" [Part 1]

[fa icon="calendar"] 08-Aug-2012 22:21:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

I finished reading one of the books from  my summer reading list and I thought I'd share with you the quotes that impressed or impacted me the most. I am talking about William Zinsser's classic guide to nonfiction writing "On writing well" - an absolute bestseller. The book is easy to understand, its content flows and the author gives brilliant advice. As Zinsser puts it, this is a 'craft book' and I can only recommend it to anyone who wants to improve his or her writing. 

Below you'll find the notes I made for the first 12 chapters while I was reading book. The quotes I wrote down for chapters 13-24 I'll share with you in another post soon :)  

Chapter 1: The Transaction

“Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.”

Chapter 2: Simplicity

“But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components… clear thinking becomes clear writing.”

Chapter 3: Clutter

“Examine every word… You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose... the clutter is the enemy."

Chapter 4: Style

“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.”

Chapter 5: The Audience

“Who am I writing for?” It’s a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You are writing for yourself... You are who you are, he [the reader] is who he is, and either you’ll get along or you won’t.” 

Chapter 6: Words

"Writing is learned by imitation.”

Chapter 7: Usage

“Language is a fabric that changes from one week to another… “being “rather unique” is no more possible than being rather pregnant.”

Chapter 8: Unity

“Don’t ever become the prisoner of a preconceived plan. Writing is no respecter of blueprints.”

Chapter 9: The Lead and the Ending

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one.”

Chapter 10: Bits & Pieces

“You won’t write well until you understand that writing is an evolving process, not a product.”

Chapter 11: Nonfiction as Literature

“Good writing is good writing, whatever form it takes and whatever we call it.” 

Chapter 12: Writing About People: The Interview

“Writing is a public trust.”


Some of these made me laugh, some made me think, some even shocked me. Ultimately, the advice in the book has helped me improve my writing for this blog. 

One of the best tips for me personally was “the essence of writing is rewriting” - something that I admittedly wasn't really doing mainly because of the lack of time, but I will work hard on making it a crucial part of my blogging.


Do you have a favourite Zinsser quote? 


Source: "On Writing Well" 25th anniversary edition 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

Topics: Writing

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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