On Writing Well, Fifth Edition

William ZInsser

HarperPerennial, 1994


Communicating always ranks #1 in soft skills needed by security professionals. William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well is a reference that should be on every practitioner’s book shelf and consulted regularly. It was first published in 1976. I will admit that I missed this book until now. In any organization, the security team has to communicate with pretty much every other internal functional discipline. Not to mention outside parties like auditors, business partners and customers. Cybersecurity is also one area where miscommunication can easily be worse than no communication.


Zinsser emphasizes simplicity and directness in writing. Explain what you are offering to the reader, get to the point and then leave readers with a unifying idea. Less is more. In today’s age people have much less time to understand your message. Fortunately the first 49 pages of the book will get all these points across. Then you can read the specialized topics as you need them.


One such topic is “Business Writing”, Chapter 16. Zinsser rails against business jargon like “seeking input” and “requesting dialog” or “special phone communication system”. He recommends using stories and include something about yourself to engage people with your words, even in business writing.

My Final Thoughts

What I like about this book is that you can use its contents in multiple formats: email, business briefs or even presentations. To improve you only need some goals and a bit of practice.

About the Book Reviewer

Frederick Scholl

Frederick Scholl is an accomplished Global Senior Information Security Risk Manager. Dr. Scholl earned a BS and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. In 1991, Fred founded Monarch Information Networks, LLC to enable forward-thinking organizations to protect their information. Previously, he co-founded Codenoll Technology Corporation (NASDAQ: CODN). He chaired the IEEE committee that wrote the first standard for Ethernet communication over fiber optic links, now used world-wide.