For those who have read _On Writing Well_, the classic guide to writing better--meaning: clearer--prose, an excellent follow-up is this book, entitled _Writing to Learn: How to Write--and Think--Clearly About any Subject at All_. With such a title little needs to be said regarding the book's purpose and content. (It focuses on a variety of subjects, from philosophy all the way to chemistry, and shows how each can be written about in clear prose _for the benefit of the writer_.)
I got the book after listening to a course by Leonard Peikoff on the philosophy of education. In it, he states that writing should be an integral part of every subject, so much so that there should be one grade based on _what_ the student knows and another based on _how_ he expresses that knowledge in writing. When I bought it, I wanted to see how this would play out in real life, were it ever enacted. Also, to be honest, I was just a tad bit skeptical that it could be used effectively with such subjects as mathematics and chemistry.
What I learned from reading the book was that writing about a variety of subjects is not only possible but of inestimable help to the student--not to mention the teacher too, as it makes their job of evaluating the status of each child's education much easier. There were many insightful comments in the book and a few precious gems of wisdom. On the topic of obscurity, for instance, Zinsser writes:
"Obscurity being one of the deadly sins, anyone might suppose that serious people would labor mightily to avoid it in their writing. But to suppose this is to overlook another force of nature that almost equals entropy as a drag on life's momentum. That force is snobbery. Yes, gentle reader (as the Victorian novelists put it when they had to deal with the darker traits), it pains me to say that there are writers who actually want to be obscure. Their principle habitat is Academia, though they can be spotted without the aid of binoculars wherever intellectuals flock. Not for them the short words and active verbs and concrete details of ordinary speech; they believe that a simple style is the sign of a simple mind. Actually a simple style is the result of harder thinking and harder work than they are willing or able to do."
Unfortunately, such witty observations do not occupy every page of the book. There are times when teaching children long-division is looked down upon because we now have calculators, others where Zinnser argues that the "creative process" is some sort of mystical mystery. And yet, with all the good attributes of this book--including a host of smartly chosen essays--these faults that I so unmercifully find can be, if not overlooked, at least seen in their proper context.
That context is not unlike one where a few small dents appear after close inspection on a good-looking sportscar. The errors may detract a little from its over-all value, but not by much (they do not, for instance, change the fact that what you are getting is worth a lot). And thus my recommendation to you, with both, would be--and is--similar: do not let any minor faults distract you, but rather place them in an appropriate context so that you can unapologetically enjoy the value that they give. With this book especially I can assure you that your investment will be wisely made and handsomely rewarded.