Writing To Learn

William Zinsser

A recent post mentioned the two books that most influenced my writing. I pulled one of them down from my bookshelf recently, William Zinsser’s Writing To Learn, and found it marked up throughout. On the inside cover, I found the inscription “Read, April 2000.” Below are a few highlighted passages from the book.


“Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly should be able to write clearly …”

“Writing is learned by imitation. I learned to write mainly by reading writers who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and by trying to figure out how they did it.”

” … the essence of writing is rewriting.”

“Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own.”

“Putting an idea into written words is like defrosting a windshield: The idea, so vague out there in the murk, slowly begins to gather into a sensible shape.”

“… I draw on two sources of energy that I commend to anyone trying to survive in this vulnerable craft: confidence and ego.”

” … I learned at an early age what has been an important principle to me ever since—that what we want to do we will do well.”

” What finally impels them [writers] is not the work they achieve, but the work of achieving it.”


Why do I care about writing well? Because language is our most advanced form of communication. If we want to communicate clearly, we must write well. Subsequently reading and writing open minds that can then change the world. By writing, I take the passion within and try to share it.

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