In newsrooms, publishing houses and wherever the labor centers on honing sentences and paragraphs, you are almost certain to find among the reference works a classic guide to nonfiction writing called “On Writing Well,” by Mr. Zinsser. Sometimes all you have to say is: Hand me the Zinsser.
“Clutter is the disease of American writing,” he declared in one passage that tends to haunt anyone daring to write about Mr. Zinsser. “We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”
The book, first published in 1976, grew out of a writing course that Mr. Zinsser taught for several years at Yale University. And he is still teaching at 90, holding one-on-one counseling sessions for accomplished and aspiring writers at a round wooden table close to those bookshelves.