Although William Zissner’s On Writing Well is subtitled “An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction,” the book has advice for all writers of prose. A section called “Bits and Pieces” offers Strunk & White-like summary counsel on writing’s brick and mortar: words and punctuations.

Within that chapter, however, there’s a subsection called “Mood Changers.” He covers the specific power of certain words to help readers keep up with your changing moodes. Zissner warns us, if you’re going to change the mood of the writing from one sentence to the next, then use a word to alert the reader. Zissner suggests these words, with a comment on each:

but
yet
however
nevertheless
thus
still
instead
therefore
meanwhile
later
today
now

Those last four can be especially important to writers of narrative. “Writers often change their time frame without remembering to tip their readers off,” Zissner says.

As his book is primarily a guide to nonfiction, Zissner also weighs in on his favorite kind: memoir. More on that on Monday, when I can compare what the Agents at the Writer’s League of Texas conference have to say about memoir in the post-James Frey era.

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