“You should write a book about how to write,” my wife said in June of 1974 when I was complaining to her, as I often did, that I had run out of things to write about. At that time our family lived at Yale, where I taught writing and was master of Branford College. When the academic year ended, we would move to our summer house in Niantic, Connecticut, and there I would hole up for three months doing writing projects of my own. I worked in a shed (below) at the rear of the property, next to some woods, my Underwood typewriter perched on a green metal typing table under a light bulb suspended from the ceiling.
Caroline’s suggestion came from out of nowhere—I had never thought of writing a textbook—but it felt right. I had then been teaching my course at Yale for four years, and I liked the idea of trying to capture it in a book. Many questions, however, occurred to me. Who would I be writing for? What tone should I adopt? How would my book differ from all the other books on writing?
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