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William Knowlton Zinsser (born October 7, 1922) is a writer, editor, and teacher. He began his career as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked as a feature writer, drama editor, film critic, and editorial writer, and has been a longtime contributor to leading magazines.

Throughout the 1970s, Zinsser taught writing at Yale University where he was master of Branford College. He served as executive editor of the Book-of-the-Month Club from 1979 to 1987. He now lives in New York City, his hometown, and teaches at The New School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

His 17 books include On Writing Well, which is in the seventh edition; Writing to Learn; Writing with a Word Processor; Mitchell & Ruff (originally published under the title Willie and Dwike); Spring Training; American Places; Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs, Writing About Your Life; and most recently, "Writing Places"

In his books, Zinsser emphasizes word economy. Author James J. Kilpatrick, in his book The Writer's Art says that if he were limited to just one book on how to write, it would be William Zinsser's On Writing Well. Adds Kilpatrick, "Zinsser's sound theory is that 'writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it.'"

Many high school teachers have incorporated Zinsser's writing into their lesson plans. Some teachers even go as far as to tell their students to "Zinsser" their work (Zinsser used as a verb meaning to take the clutter out of their essays).


Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2006. PEN (Permanent Entry Number): 0000023043.

External Sources

NYU's Fales Library Guide to the William Zinsser Papers


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