Zinsser’s Bits and Pieces

With a title like “Bits and Pieces” I end up thinking of horse bridles or some kind of cereal, but this spontaneous chapter offers writing “scraps and morsels” (111), such as

Verbs — “The difference between an active-verb style and passive-verb style–in clarity and vigor–is the difference between life and death for a writer” (111).

Adverbs — This section was sweet and to the point, “most adverbs are unnecessary” (112).

Adjectives — “Make your adjectives do work that needs to be done” (113).

Little Qualifiers — “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” (114).


The Period — “There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough” (114).

The Exclamation Point — Don’t rob a reader of their delight in finding something funny. Let them think it is comical on their own. “Humor is best achieved by understatement, and there’s nothing subtle about an exclamation point” (115).

The Semicolon— Mostly old fashioned. Use with care.

The Dash — Supposedly “a bumpkin at the genteel dinner table of good English. But it has full membership and will get you out of many tight corners” (116).

The Colon — Practically antique, even in comparison to the semicolon. However, it can be used effectively before a list of items.

  • Adverbs are not stylishly cool (pierrefuentes.info) — Excellent creative and professional post! (And yes, I am using the exclamation point . . . probably out of place, but I liked the article and it made me laugh. Enough said.)

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