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'On Writing Well' author Zinsser to visit campus Nov. 9-10

Nationally recognized writing expert William Zinsser will visit UW-Madison Nov. 9 and 10 in a series of presentations for faculty and students in areas as diverse as English and engineering.

He will facilitate a public discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 9 titled, "Crossing Boundaries: A Conversation with William Zinsser." The event will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Tripp Commons, Memorial Union. He will also talk with three engineering classes, meet with the Writing Center Fellows, and have breakfast with a group of faculty.

Among Zinsser's most famous works is "On Writing Well," a book used in English, journalism and communications courses around the country. In it, he outlines four principles for improved writing: clarity, simplicity, economy (brevity) and humanity. The book is in its sixth edition and has sold nearly a million copies. He is the author of more than 15 books, is a former writing instructor at Yale and served as a master to one of its residential colleges.

William Zinsser

William Zinsser (large image)

The idea to have Zinsser visit campus originated through the experience of a freshman taking a basic engineering communication course. The student, Ellen Kretz, wrote to him after choosing his essay "College Pressures" for a critical analysis assignment. The essay discusses the college student's struggle with economical, parental, peer and self-induced pressures. It emphasizes the importance of "being true to your hopes and dreams and not be the prisoner of expectations that aren't the right ones for you." They exchanged letters, and Kretz's instructors saw great potential in having him meet with students here.

"Zinsser is a gifted writer who inspires students to be true to their dreams and use writing as a learning tool along the way," says Sandra Shaw Courter, adjunct assistant professor of engineering professional development, and director of the Engineering Learning Center. "He urges them to take risks, work hard, and not be afraid to fail."

Among the topics Zinsser will emphasize is how to use writing as a means to learn about any subject-it's the theme of his popular book, "Writing to Learn." The themes in the book are valuable to engineering students learning the importance of writing in their field, says Courter. "This book captures writing of people who are not writers, including engineers and scientists. He talks about writing, thinking and learning as being a part of the same process, each enhancing the other."

His visit is made possible through grants from the College of Engineering, UW-Madison Teaching Enhancement Grant Program and the University Lectures Committee. Principal sponsor is the College of Engineering Engineering Professional Development, Technical Communication Program. Other sponsors include Engineering Learning Center, the Foundation Coalition, the Writing Center, the School of Journalism, the University Health Service, and the Departments of English, Agricultural Journalism, and Communication Arts.