On Writing and On Writing Well

This post is part of the “New Writing Habit” series in which I attempt to write about something for one hour every work day.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy putting words to paper and expressing a thought, one after another, to the point of having an essay or article. I’ve been reading the classic book about writing called On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I bought this book years ago and tried reading it, but it just wasn’t the right time. I wasn’t interested in learning what it had to teach then. But now, I am very interested in becoming a writer.

This book is teaching me how to write well. The author give tip after tip about how to write clearly and unambiguously. If I am going to be a prolific writer, which I want to be, then my writing has to be clear and understandable. The author suggests finding articles from someone in my field whose writing is clear and understandable, figuring out what they do to make their writing that way, and mimic that. I have been thinking of who I would use. The name that keeps popping up in my head is Carol Tenopir. She is a good researcher, and I think she is a good writer, too. I’ve never looked at her writing with that eye, so I will have to investigate further. One thing is certain: Carol Tenopir is a prolific writer. According to some study done somewhere (I have the reference somewhere), she is the most prolific author in the library and information science field. And thanks to her prolific writing, the faculty of the UTK School of Information Sciences is the most productive faculty per capita of all ALA-accredited library and information science programs. That’s impressive! That’s the way I want to be. I want to be the most prolific writer of all practicing librarians. Hmm…I need to figure out who is the most prolific now, so I know what I have to beat. 

In the meantime, I need to learn the craft of writing well. Zinsser’s book will help, as will another that I’ve ordered as a desk copy at work called They Say, I Say. It talks about the typical format of an academic article, i.e. start with what “they” say, whoever they are, and then state what you say in reference to it. For example, “Researchers of data management skills claim that these skills… My research, however, finds that…” They say, then I say. There is much more in the book than that, but that’s the gist of it.

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