William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

Ivan Mesa | May 19, 2015


Chances are that if you browse a writer’s bookshelf—someone who enjoys the craft of writing and desires to grow as a writer—then you’ll probably find a marked-up version of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. First published in 1976, this classic has gone through six revisions and continues to be a well-received guide for writers of all sorts.

Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors—a simple vision the editorial team at The Gospel Coalition desires to embody.

1. There are no shortcuts in writing.

Always full of wisdom and insight, Zinsser could also be an opinionated curmudgeon—a besetting sin of many writers. When…


To read the rest of this article, visit http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/william-zinsser-the-writing-mentor.