William Zinsser Biography

William Zinsser (Full name: William Knowlton Zinsser) was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. He is best known for his book On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (1976).

He wrote 19 books including Writing to Learn (1988) and his autobiography Writing about Your Life (2004).

Zinsser was born on October 7, 1922, in New York City. He attended Deerfield Academy and Princeton University. During the Second World War, he served in North Africa and Italy as a sergeant in the US army between 1943 and 1945.

After the war, he joined The New York Herald Tribune in 1946 where he worked as a writer, editor, and film critic. He was at The New York Herald Tribune for 13 years before leaving in 1959 to pursue a freelance career in writing. For the next 11 years, he wrote articles and columns for various magazines. He also wrote several books on travel and humor.

In 1970, he headed to Yale where he taught nonfiction writing until 1979. During this period, he wrote his classic book On Writing Well which was published in 1976. The book went on to sell over 1.5 million copies.

Between 2010 and 2011, he had a weekly blog, Zinsser on Friday, at The American Scholar Magazine website.

Zinsser died on May 12, 2015, at the age of 92.

Further Reading

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  • Sources Cited for William Zinsser’s biography

The New York Times William Zinsser, Author of ‘On Writing Well,’ Dies at 92

William Zinsser Official Website Biography

Writing to Learn (1988) Writing to Learn [see on Amazon]