Books on writing

How can I become a better writer to advance my career? I've been asked that question several times by friends and co-workers. If you're interested in developing writing skills so you can present yourself as clear, compelling, and informative, I recommend four books found below.

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The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

In a simple, punchy format, you'll encounter common grammar mistakes and learn how to fix them. Some writers find this book outdated, but Strunk and White's grammar instruction stands the test of time. It gives us a solid foundation to build upon as the English language and grammar norms evolve. Thousands of professionals use this book to master the mechanics of grammar, the first step in creating sentences worth reading.

The Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto

Refrain from following the writing example set by this book. The writing is a little dry and needs stronger editing. However, I still highly recommend Minto's work. This book teaches structure and how to get organized before you write. You'll learn how to clarify your thinking, create a narrative, and spot the gaps. As a bonus, the mental models found in this book apply to presentations, speaking, and other forms of communication beyond writing.

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

Written by an excellent writer and trainer of others who write for the New York Times, this book dives into over 55 writing techniques and explains how they can liven up your work. Filled with helpful examples, you'll learn concepts like rhythm, pace, and levels of abstraction alongside many other essential tools writers use. After reading it once, you'll reach for it again every couple of months when facing a writing challenge that needs quick guidance.

Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon

This book explores the most basic component of writing: the sentence. You'll learn how to construct sentences that string phrases together, hold attention, and communicate a clear message. Landon provides a visual framework that decodes sentence structure, showing you how to break down sentences and build them back up, making them smoother, more powerful, and more satisfying to read.

Each book above is a gem in its own right. At times, the authors have differing views, and at other times, they agree but take a different approach to teaching the same concept. Those are good things because writing isn't a science. If you read these books in the order shown above, you'll gain a powerful, well-rounded toolkit packed with multiple ways to break open any writing challenge.

Happy writing!