Zinsser to Writers: Take Readers on a Journey and Trust Your Instincts

A recent interview with the author of “On Writing Well” brought up some good writing points that are worth repeating.

Author William Zinsser highlighted five tips in his interview with Mallary Jean Tenore of Poynter.org. Two of the five really resonated with me. They were to take your readers on a journey and to have confidence in yourself as a writer.

“All writing to me is a journey. It’s saying to the reader, ‘Come along with me; I’ll take you on a voyage’,” Zinsser was quoted as saying in Tenore’s article.

Zinsser also said that too often people become so preoccupied with writing well that they clutter their stories with unnecessary words that lead readers astray. Good writers make every word count, and they avoid abstractions, he told Tenore.

“Nobody wants abstractions,” Zinsser said. “They want specific details that help them discover something new.”

I totally agree. Unnecessary words tend to take away from the point of an article. I think readers want to know what any story is about in a short and to-the-point manner. Take out the cutesy, fluff words and write it straight.

The second tip that I loved was to “have confidence in yourself as a writer.”

Confidences comes with trusting your instincts as a writer and learning to advocate for the stories you want to write, Zinsser said in the interview.

The word instincts took me back to the days when I was a young editor and reporter for Cox Newspapers in Arizona. My boss during some of those years, Hal DeKeyser, used to always tell me to trust my instincts.

It was advice that he often had to repeat. But in the end, it stuck with me and has served me well to this day.

By the way, the other three writing tips were to:

• Think of writing as a process, not a product;
• Write for yourself, not others; and
• Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

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About The Author

NACJ trainer

Susan Carson Cormier is a co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists and co-author of the "Handbook for Citizen Journalists." As the head coach at the NACJ, Cormier is in charge of training citizen journalists the basics in how to report and write news, sports and feature stories.

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Author his web sitehttp://www.nacj.us

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01 2011

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