Joseph M. Williams, 1933-2008

It’s amazing what you learn if you do a simple Web search these days. This morning I typed Joseph M. Williams into Google and found out that the author and University of Chicago professor died in February.

I didn’t know Williams but through his books, yet he has been a constant companion with me since I started college. My first writing class used his book Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace as a textbook. I think I fell in love with that book a bit more than my classmates did, and I kept it with me — it still sits on my bookshelf today, right next to a newer edition and a copy of his Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace.

Williams’ description of sentences containing actors and actions altered the way I think about writing, and it eventually altered the way I taught writing to freshman at Montana State University. It makes me sad to think that Williams won’t be out there anymore, thinking about writing so that university freshman don’t have to.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams.


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