What are the best books to help you write well? I personally like very much the William Zinsser’s “On writing well. The classic guide to writing nonfiction” [2006, HarperCollins, ISBN-13: 978-0-06-089154-1]. I bought it few years ago via Amazon and enjoyed this book a lot, especially the first seven chapters. Here’s one of my favorite quotes about clutter in our language:
Clutter is the ponderous euphemism that turns a slum into a depressed socioeconomic area, garbage collectors into waste-disposal personnel and the town dump into the volume reduction unit. I think of Bill Mauldin’s cartoon of two hoboes riding a freight car. On of them says, “I started as a simple bum, but now I’m hard-core unemployed.”
In that book there are few forms of writing are described:
- Writing about people: The interview
- Writing about places: The travel article
- Writing about yourself: The memoir
- Science and technology
- Business writing: Writing in your job
- Writing about the arts: critics and columnists
I highly recommend this book. But are the other good books to improve your writing style and skills?
§1 “Writing Well. The Essential Guide” by Mark Tredinnick, published by Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Let me quote a box of clichés from this book:
It’s high time
It doesn’t get any better than this
How good was that?
This day and age
The young people of today
A cleansing ale
Extol the virtues
Wend your (weary) way
Guests were treated to
This is a dream come true
Fact of life
At this point in time
At the end of the day
On a regular/daily basis
The time of her life
The tools of the trade
Caresses (except for what lovers do; and even then)
Punctuates (except for what commas do)
Time heals all wounds
Just have to wait and see
Wipe the slate clean
The grass is greener
Time catches up with us
Road to success
Climbing the corporate ladder
Just take it one day at a time/play one game at time
Look at each case on its merits
Backs to the wall
Family and friends
Words are inadequate
Cool, calm and collected
Hook, line and sinker
Whole nine yards
Whole box and dice
Happy as Larry
Time is money
Rationalization of resources
Think outside the box
Drivers of change/strategy
Push the envelope
Scope the problem
Run it up the mast
Walk the talk
Refurbish (just about anything)
Integrated (solutions, etc.)
Runs on the board
Key (as in “This element is key”)
Steep learning curve
On a case-by-case basis
Keep me in the loop
Ball is in your court
§2 “Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports” by Heather Silyn-Roberts. Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.
This is an unbelievably detail reference for any kind of formal writing: business reports, plans, Engineering design reports, cover letters, CVs, etc.
Le me quote one fragment from that useful book:
Using a comma
A comma indicates a pause. You can often tell where a comma should be by
saying the words to yourself. The places where commas are generally used
- After each item in a series, but generally not before the final and”
(Adjectives) The river is wide, turbulent and muddy.
(Nouns) The most common birds on the island are sparrows, chaffinches,
thrushes and blackbirds.
(Phrases) The river-mouth is wide, with large shingle banks, extensive sand
dunes and a small island.
- To delimit a subclause from the main clause in a sentence:
Increasing agriculture will cause an increase in global warming, the reason
being that ruminants and paddy fields produce methane.
When the engine was run on petrol the carbon dioxide emissions were
higher, which was an indication of improved mixing.
- After an introductory phrase or subclause:
Although farmers have reduced their use of pesticides in this area in recent
years, there is still local concern about the issue.
By using better management practices, farmers have been able to reduce
their use of pesticides.
- To delimit material that is not essential to the meaning of the
The island, although windswept, has a large number of different bird
To be continued