Latish Sehgal's Blog

Book Notes: On Writing Well

Read On: Mar 2015
Reading Time: 6 hours
Rating: 7/10


On Writing Well is for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. This volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.


  • Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragaph to the next.
  • The secret to of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.
  • Clear thinking becomes clear writing, one can’t exist without the other.
  • You have to strip your writing down before you can build it back up.
  • Style is organic to the person doing the writing. Be yourself. To do this, you must do two things: relax, and have confidence.
  • Writers are at their most natural when they write in the first person.
  • Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions.
  • Write primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.
  • Never say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation.
  • Writing is learned by imitation. Cultivate the best models.
  • When writing, bear in mind how your words sound together, because readers hear what they are reading. If you don’t like how it sounds, try reversing the order of a sentence, or substituting a word.
  • Words are the only tools you’ve got. Learn to use them with originality and care.
  • Unity is the anchor of good writing. One choice is unity of pronoun (first person, as participant, or third person, as an observer), Unity of tense is another choice. Most write in the past tense, but some write in the present. What is not agreeable is to switch back and forth. Another choice is unity of mood (casual/serious).
  • Your lead must capture the reader immediately and force him to keep reading. It must tell the reader why the piece was written and why he ought to read it.
  • Every paragraph should amplify the one that preceded it. Take special care with the last sentence of each paragraph. Try to give it an extra twist of humor as surprise. Make the reader smile and you’ve got him for at least one more paragraph.
  • Everyone wants to be told a story. Always look for ways to convey your information in narrative form.
  • Don’t summarize at the end; that is boring. Suspense is a refreshing way to end. Another one is ending with a quote from a person.
  • Use Active verbs. Most Adverbs and Adjectives are unnecessary.
  • Alert the user as soon as possible about any mood change from the previous sentence by using words like ‘but’, ‘yet’, ‘however’ etc..
  • Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost.
  • Of all the subjects available to you as a writer, the one you know the best is yourself: your past and present, your thoughts and emotions.
  • Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life.
  • Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all.
  • Don’t strain for laughs; Humor is built on surprise, and you can surprise the reader only so often.
  • The effortless style is achieved by strenuos effort and constant refining,
  • If you write about something that you think you would enjoy knowing about, your enjoyment will show in what you write.


This is a classic book as far as improvig your writing is concerned. I am not planning to write any books anytime soon, but would like to make my writing (mostly on this blog) more engaging. I enjoyed reading it.

P.S I have moved all my Book Notes to Read My Book Notes.