Last month, I lost an ally in my quest to eradicate jargon and wordiness from ad agency pitch documents (not to mention emails, client reports, briefings and marketing copy).

William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, a beloved guide for non-fiction writers since its publication in 1976, died at age 92.

Zinsser was a writer, editor and, most significantly to me, a teacher of writing. He believed that anyone could write well and seemed to be on a mission to prove that if you can think clearly, you can write clearly. And I agree.

Think for a moment how often your written words are the first thing your prospects see. Proposals, website copy, prospecting emails – they all create a crucial first impression.

Over a million and a half people have bought On Writing Well. With revisions that have updated the book to include advice on writing in our digital age, it remains one of the best books of its kind.

Haven’t read it yet? Forget about this blog post. Instead, go to Amazon.com now and buy a copy.

I was first introduced to On Writing Well by journalist Ashley Milne-Tyte. In fact, the book was a constant guide for us as we developed Persuasive Writing for New Business, a workshop that teaches ad agencies how to let go of jargon and generalizations and use simple, clear language to communicate their value to prospects, clients and others.

Zinsser exhorts us to simplify, clarify and de-clutter (“clutter is the disease of American writing,” he says). He invites us to step into the shoes of the reader, reminding us that “readers identify with people, not abstractions.”

He was a champion of the process of writing, which includes the struggle to get started, the messy first draft, and the rounds of revisions that finally lead to a polished product. He doesn’t sugar coat the fact that writing well can be hard work, but he is also full of encouragement in the truest sense of the word. That is, he equips us with the information we need to courageously put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and let our humanity shine through.

Think for a moment how often your written words are the first thing your prospects see. Proposals, website copy, prospecting emails – they all create a crucial first impression. Is yours good enough?

Too many agencies squander this opportunity. That’s the good news, because it presents a gigantic opportunity to differentiate your agency with a sharply focused and compelling message.

Not sure where to start? Get some help, whether it’s signing up for our persuasive writing workshop or picking up a copy of William Zinsser’s excellent classic.