What should you be reading to improve your writing skills?

Plain English Handbook
Plain English Handbook (Photo credit: arellis49)

If you want to improve your writing skills then the first thing you need to do is write. And then write some more. This is the advice that you usually get from writing books and I agree that the best way to hone your skills is to practise as much as you can. Sadly, you can’t really avoid the fact that you need to work hard to be good at something. But you also need to get feedback on your writing and it’s not usually helpful to get feedback from friends and relatives. They are either too harsh or too kind. They never tell you what is wrong with your work or how you can improve your writing, but perhaps they dont know exactly what is needed. This is where writing books come in. They probably aren’t a substitute for a really good writing teacher but they can help you a lot.

It’s hard to nominate my favourite writing book. I have quite a few and like my children, I love them equally, so I will have to give you a small list of my favourites. My number one is probably Paula Rocque’s book called ‘On writing Well‘. This is a great little book which gives plenty of practical advice. Paula covers topics such as cutting wordiness and using the right word.

My second favourite (for the great technical advice) is by an Australian called Neil James. Neil is the head of the Plain English Foundation and has written a great book called ‘Writing at work” which is a terribly useful and surprisingly readable book. By that I mean that the book not only gives good technical advice but is full of interesting information.

My third pick is Brilliant Copywriting  which will help you write persuasively. I found this book to be funny, entertaining and helpful. If you are writing to persuade (and aren’t we all doing that in some shape or form) then this book will help you craft your message. There’s lots of good advice and the book itself is very enjoyable to read.

So these are my picks for today. I hope you find this useful, but if you disagree or have other books to recommend, feel free to comment.

2 thoughts on “What should you be reading to improve your writing skills?

  1. Hi Marg,

    Thanks for this post. Its an area I struggle with and need to work on constantly. As per your advice practice makes perfect so I will look up the references you have provided. I am sure they will help me.

    Cheers,

    Di

    1. Hi Di and thanks a lot for your feedback. I don’t think there any shortcuts to being good at something. It’s really a case of learning as you go along. I never cease to be amazed at how much I don’t know, but I think having an inquisitive mind and being open to new ideas is a good place to begin. We can all get better if we try.

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