On Writing Well

Wanderley Caloni

February 3, 2019

On Writing Well de William Zinsser é considerado por muitos do Hackers News como uma ótima referência para se escrever bem não-ficção. Tenho minhas dúvidas. Mas justiça seja feita, o livro parece um Syd Field (Screenplay) para não-ficção, cheio de guidelines que podem auxiliar o escritor ainda amador tentando se profissionalizar e impressionar alguns editores por aí.

A melhor parte em minha opinião é dos Princípios (Parte I), pois é ali que está o verdadeiro ouro do livro, onde ele ensina o bê-a-bá do que faz os textos hoje em dia serem tão ruins e como reverter essa situação lamentável. Ele até cita o artigo de George Owell, Politics and the English Language. Ainda assim, ele já dá sinais de SJW ao insistir na questão de como usar os gêneros para não ofender os sensíveis ouvidos da mulherada neurótica sobre como a gramática é patriarcal. Pelo jeito não aprendeu muito bem com Mr. Orwell.

Além disso, é nos princípios que está a verdadeira mágica para se escrever bem: pratique, trabalhe, comece a escrever. Só há uma maneira de melhorar, e é essa. Não há atalhos.


  • They sit down to commit an act of literature, and the self who emerges on paper is far stiffer than the person who sat down to write.
  • Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other.
  • Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say? Surprisingly often they don’t know.
  • Clutter is the ponderous euphemism that turns a slum into a depressed socioeconomic area.
  • Never say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation.
  • You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive.
  • All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem. Whatever it is, it has to be confronted and solved.
  • As for what point you want to make, every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought that he or she didn’t have before.
  • One reason for citing this lead is to note that salvation often lies not in the writer’s style but in some odd fact he or she was able to discover.
  • When you’re ready to stop, stop. If you have presented all the facts and made the point you want to make, look for the nearest exit.
  • Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed.
  • The assumption is that fact and color are two separate ingredients. They’re not; color is organic to the fact. Your job is to present the colorful fact.
  • Don’t annoy your readers by over-explaining – by telling them something they already know or can figure out.
  • Writing is not a special language owned by the English teacher. Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all.
  • Always start with too much material. Then give your reader just enough.
  • If you’re smitten by the urge to try the breezy style, read what you’ve written aloud and see if you like the sound of your voice.
  • Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for anyone learning an art or a craft.
  • With so much noise in the air, was any American child being trained to listen? Was anyone calling attention to the majesty of a well-constructed sentence?
  • After verbs, plain nouns are your strongest tools; they resonate with emotion.
  • “The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good. Even if he isn’t.” - S. J. Perelman
  • You also have to turn on the switch. Nobody is going to do it for you.
  • Living is the trick. Writers who write interestingly tend to be men and women who keep themselves interested. That’s almost the whole point of becoming a writer.
  • Every such reduction of the unfamiliar will reduce your fear.
  • Writing to destroy and to scandalize can be as destructive to the writer as it is to the subject.
  • The moral for nonfiction writers is: think broadly about your assignment.
  • Trust your curiosity to connect with the curiosity of your readers.
  • Writing is related to character. If your values are sound, your writing will be sound.
  • Used in moderation, making yourself gullible – or downright stupid – gives the reader the enormous pleasure of feeling superior.
On Writing Well, by Wanderley Caloni. 2019-02-03. Este é um livro de William Zinsser que já tem mais de 30 anos e que é falado no Hacker News como referência para escritores de não-ficção.