From The Wall Street Journal:
All books about writing have virtually the same goal. Sometimes it’s implied, but sometimes it’s right there in the title, as in William Zinsser’s classic guide, “On Writing Well.”
The emphasis on excelling is fine but has some limitations. I’ve spent the last 20 years teaching journalism and writing classes at a selective public university, and the majority of my (bright) students put me in mind of Jack Nicholson’s line to Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth!”
My students can’t really handle writing “well.” At this point in their writing lives, that goal is too ambitious. I propose a more modest aim: not writing badly.
. . . .
The road to not writing badly starts with simplifying and clarifying. What was the author trying to express? The nub of it was that when you’re in the cafe, you notice a lot of homey stuff, and that this is surprising, or at least interesting enough to mention, because of the recent renovation. So the way to start is just by saying that as precisely as you can. Something like this: “The cafe was remodeled last year, but lots of homey touches are still evident.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Meryl for the tip.