William Zinsser

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For the Major League Baseball pitcher and scout, see Bill Zinser.

William Knowlton Zinsser (born October 7, 1922) is an American writer, editor, literary critic, 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. He has been a longtime contributor to leading magazines.

Early life[edit]

Zinsser attended Buckley Country Day School class of 1936 and Deerfield Academy for high school.

Professional background[edit]

Throughout the 1970s, Zinsser taught writing at Yale University, where he was the fifth master of Branford College (1973–1979).[citation needed] He served as executive editor of the Book-of-the-Month Club from 1979 to 1987.[citation needed] As of 2013, he lives in New York City. He retired from teaching at The New School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism because his glaucoma has advanced.[citation needed] [1] His 18 books include On Writing Well, which is in the seventh edition; Writing to Learn; Writing with a Word Processor; Mitchell & Ruff (originally published as 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, an autobiography. The American Scholar runs William Zinsser's weekly web posting, "Zinsser on Friday," featuring his short essays on writing, the arts, and popular culture.[2]

In his books, Zinsser emphasizes the 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. He adds, "Zinsser's sound theory is that 'writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it."[3] [4]

Zinsser interviewed Woody Allen in 1963 for the Saturday Evening Post. After a chance encounter in 1980, Allen cast Zinsser, a Protestant, in a small role as a Catholic priest in his film Stardust Memories.[5]


  1. ^ "A Writing Coach Becomes a Listener - Dan Barry". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  2. ^ "The Complete Zinsser on Friday - William Zinsser". The American Scholar. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ Zinsser, William (2006). On Writing Well. New York: Harper Collins. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-06-089154-1. 
  4. ^ Kilpatrick, James Jackson (1984). "chapter 6 "The Tools We Live By"". The Writer's Art. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4494-0561-8. 
  5. ^ Zinsser, William. "My Stardust Memories". The American Scholar. Retrieved April 19, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]