Writing Good English

I’m getting ready to teach a one-credit journalism course on editorial writing, which will also be a test case for a potential “topics in advanced composition” course. This essay looks like a good way to start the class.

The good nouns are the thousands of short, simple, infinitely old Anglo-Saxon nouns that express the fundamentals of everyday life: house, home, child, chair, bread, milk, sea, sky, earth, field, grass, road … words that are in our bones, words that resonate with the oldest truths. When you use those words, you make contact–consciously and also subconsciously–with the deepest emotions and memories of your readers. Don’t try to find a noun that you think sounds more impressive or “literary.” Short Anglo-Saxon nouns are your second-best tools as a journalist writing in English. —WIlliam Zinser, The American Scholar

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