Kurt Vonnegut & Suzanne McConnell’s Pity the Reader

Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style was technically not written by Kurt Vonnegut; it was edited together by Suzanne McConnell. Though she incorporates Vonnegut’s voice through his writing, she really is the primary communicator in this book. And, I was not a huge fan unfortunately.


Like many writers, Vonnegut taught writing. He worked at the Iowa’s Writers Workshop way back when. So, McConnell centers him as a skilled creative writer and a skilled technical writer. By technical, I mean that he knew and understood the mechanics, grammar, style, and overall art of composition. He gives several rules to follow; the first is (1) “Find something you care about.”

And, the list continues:

(2) Do not ramble.

(3) Keep it simple.

(4) Have the guts to cut.

(5) Sound like yourself.

(6) Say what you mean to say.

(7) Pity the Reader.

(8) Give your readers as much information as soon as possible.


McConnell goes through and adds commentary to each of those rules. Those were some of the most important ones in my own book of writing. However, I did spot a key element in which we differ. Vonnegut does not like easter eggs. I, however, love the subtle embedded nod to this work or that work. It feels like a gift that keeps on giving when a book does that. Even when I don’t know the reference, it gives me something to look deeper into, research. One final advice I took from this book was to be bold and brave in writing. Vonnegut writes, “Moxie opens doors.”


Work Cited

McConnell, Suzanne and Kurt Vonnegut. Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style, RosettaBooks, Accessed on Hoopla 26 January 2023.

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