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Writing To Learn [Paperback]

by William Zinsser
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 4, 1993 0062720406 978-0062720405
This is an essential book for everyone who wants to write clearly about any subject and use writing as a means of learning.

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Writing To Learn + On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Using numerous examples of clear, stylish writing from a broad range of disciplines, and adding the warmth of his personal experiences, Zinsser makes a strong case for his claim that writing about a field of knowledge is the best way to immerse oneself in it and to make it one's own. Three guiding principles emergeaccuracy, brevity, and clarityand, Zinsser argues, writers who keep them in mind will avoid much of the misunderstanding that results from bad writing. Zinnser has particularly harsh words for what he calls "corporation-speak," the incomprehensible nonsense that invades many professional publications. His reference, whose title so accurately sums up its philosophy, should become a standard for those who care about good writing.Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An elegant exposition of the thesis that to write is to learn...in the tradition of Strunk and White, a model in its own right." -- Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (June 4, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062720406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062720405
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Zinsser, a writer, editor, and teacher, is a fourth-generation New Yorker, born in 1922. His 18 books, which range in subject from music to baseball to American travel, include several widely read books about writing.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, first published in 1976, has sold almost 1.5 million copies to three generations of writers, editors, journalists, teachers and students.

Writing to Learn which uses examples of good writing in science, medicine and technology to demonstrate that writing is a powerful component of learning in every subject.

Writing Places, a memoir recalling the enjoyment and gratitude the places where William Zinsser has done his writing and his teaching and the unusual people he encountered on that life journey.

Mr. Zinsser began his career in 1946 at the New York Herald Tribune, where he was a writer, editor, and critic. In 1959 he left to become a freelance writer and has since written regularly for leading magazines. From 1968 to 1972 he was a columnist for Life. During the 1970s he was at Yale, where, besides teaching nonfiction writing and humor writing, he was master of Branford College. In 1979 he returned to New York and was a senior editor at the Book-of-the-Month Club until 1987, when he went back to freelance writing. He teaches at the New School and at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is an adviser on writing to schools, colleges, and other organizations. He holds honorary degrees from Wesleyan University, Rollins College, and the University of Southern Indian and is a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library.

William Zinsser's other books include Mitchell & Ruff, a profile of jazz musicians Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff; American Places, a pilgrimage to 16 iconic American sites; Spring Training, about the spring training camp of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988; and Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs; and he is the Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. A jazz pianist and songwriter, he wrote a musical revue, What's the Point, which was performed off Broadway in 2003.

Mr. Zinsser lives in his home town with his wife, the educator and historian Caroline Zinsser. They have two children, Amy Zinsser, a business executive, and John Zinsser, a painter and teacher.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How to Write and Think Clearly About Any Subject at All" September 16, 2000
I think we all have a "fear" of certain subjects. For me, that fear manifests itself in the field of math. I was terrified of it in school and even now would rather discuss almost any other subject. Zinsser helps us face our fear of subjects we think we don't understand by writing. How will that help? You probably know a lot about the work you do. You could probably also write very competently about your profession. In "Writing to Learn," Zinsser shows us that writing across the curriculum (which is very prominent in education right now) can help anyone learn how to organize and present their thoughts in a logical manner so that they can be understood by those who might otherwise be intimidated by them. Zinsser gives many examples from writers that support his statement that writing is helpful in all subjects in the curriculum: science, history, music, math...MATH??? How can you write about math? It's all in Zinsser's book, which is as entertaining as it is informative.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An "Admirable Complement" November 17, 2002
For those who have read _On Writing Well_, the classic guide to writing better--meaning: clearer--prose, an excellent follow-up is this book, entitled _Writing to Learn: How to Write--and Think--Clearly About any Subject at All_. With such a title little needs to be said regarding the book's purpose and content. (It focuses on a variety of subjects, from philosophy all the way to chemistry, and shows how each can be written about in clear prose _for the benefit of the writer_.)
I got the book after listening to a course by Leonard Peikoff on the philosophy of education. In it, he states that writing should be an integral part of every subject, so much so that there should be one grade based on _what_ the student knows and another based on _how_ he expresses that knowledge in writing. When I bought it, I wanted to see how this would play out in real life, were it ever enacted. Also, to be honest, I was just a tad bit skeptical that it could be used effectively with such subjects as mathematics and chemistry.
What I learned from reading the book was that writing about a variety of subjects is not only possible but of inestimable help to the student--not to mention the teacher too, as it makes their job of evaluating the status of each child's education much easier. There were many insightful comments in the book and a few precious gems of wisdom. On the topic of obscurity, for instance, Zinsser writes:
"Obscurity being one of the deadly sins, anyone might suppose that serious people would labor mightily to avoid it in their writing. But to suppose this is to overlook another force of nature that almost equals entropy as a drag on life's momentum. That force is snobbery.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best guide to writing across the curriculum August 23, 1998
By A Customer
Zissner entices the reader to write, write, write! It is one of the best guides to aid professors, high school teachers, and every day people to write for everything. His chapters on writing for math, science and other fields where writing is sometimes difficult for students, are practical and full of examples. Great for first-time college students.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but ... July 6, 2002
By Yellow
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book starts by expressing how we can use writing to learn, but it seems to get more into stating over and over THAT we can use writing to learn, not HOW to learn through writing, or how to teach through the use of writing. But maybe it's just me.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By sunjoy
The book is funny at times, and recounts a few interesting anectdotes. It seems dated to me though, as its purpose is to argue for the inclusion of writing instruction accross all subjects in the introductory undergaduate curriculum. This is no longer a novel idea, and many liberal arts colleges and universities already do this. Furthermore, Zinsser's argument is purely anectdotal, and focusses on demonstrating that professors, especially in the sciences, can indeed implement writing components in their courses. Zinsser does not do much to analyze the effects of these efforts, to see if previously bad writers improved, or that the writing assignments actually helped increase either understanding of, or curiosity in, a given subject.

The book is *not* a guide on how to write, or on how, specifically, one can structure one's research and writing to best learn one's subject matter. Zinsser illustrates only the most basic principles (be specific, avoid excessive jargon).
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illustrious Life, Dense writer July 29, 2002
William Zinsser has lived an illustrious life as a working writer, editor, and teacher. He draws from this extensive experience and writes to encourage the teaching of writing accross the curriculum, as well as to allay fears of writing and of subjects we don't have an aptitude for.
Zinsser provides thorough and stunning examples of good writing from diverse disciplines, sprinkled with his own insightful commentary about what makes it good.
Buy this book if only for the catalog of excellant examples of the writing of notable thinkers like Thomas Lewis, Albert Einstein, Steven Gould, and many more.
Zinser includes excellant stories of how writing in any subject area encourages clear reasoning and thinking and concise expression in reader and writer alike. Students who write learn more and know why they do. Encourage your students to do so.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not informative
A pleasure to read, but I had hoped for more on "the how" of writing to learn. The fact that there are effective writers in many disciplines is not an explanation for what... Read more
Published 1 month ago by mark grabe
5.0 out of 5 stars Written with great explanation for anyone can use
Easy to understand and use of the suggestions make learning much easier. Will continue to use it constantly .Good for a young learner just getting started.
Published 2 months ago by Jim Svoboda
5.0 out of 5 stars Just the book I needed.
What I like about this book was that it motivated me to seek, search and to imitate the best writers.
Published 3 months ago by Abel guzman
5.0 out of 5 stars William Zinsser: a classic straightforward writer and teacher
This is the second book I have read by William Zinsser. He doesn't disappoint. For the beginner or the seasoned writer, Zinsser spells out essential points of writing: clarity,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Annette S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning from Writing to Learn
Fortunately I live fairly close to a library, so I've been able to read just about every book there is on how to write. Read more
Published 4 months ago by PAULINE M. fALSTROM
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing to Learn
"Writing to Learn" is a superb book. Writing, and reformulating, what you have know is an excellent way to engage critical thought, increase comprehension and grow the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Hodge Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Impassioned call for using writing to teach and to learn
In this book, the author challenges the conventional view that nonfiction writing is intended primarily to express or communicate ideas and conclusions that a writer has already... Read more
Published 7 months ago by E. Jaksetic
4.0 out of 5 stars The Writing Process as a Fundamental Method of Learning
Although Zinsser's book may not have been exactly what I had expected, I found the concept of "writing across the curriculum" to be a fascinating and practical concept. Read more
Published on June 8, 2011 by Richard R. Blake
3.0 out of 5 stars Largely bluster, old ideas, but a few gems
This book is a series of anecdotes and personal stories assembled in support of the idea that writing should be considered an important skill in all disciplines, and that the best... Read more
Published on April 10, 2011 by J. Grills
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing Across the Curriculum
What a clever idea, to write about all subjects and not relegate writing to a grammar or English class. Read more
Published on November 9, 2010 by Terri J. Rice
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