Category Archives: On Writing

A Business Communication Reading List

A month ago to the day, I provided a crowd-sourced list of recommended readings for the career-minded. I didn’t have room in that post to talk about all the excellent suggestions from one extraordinary friend. Jill Stewart is a professional lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Communication. I’ve never told her this, but hand’s down my favorite business class in college was Business Communication. I thought I’d ace it without breaking a sweat. Boy, did I have a rude awakening!

My professor, lo those many years ago, showed me that communicating in business is hard. It’s also vital to career success.

I was reminded of all of this when I read Jill’s reading list, provided here verbatim. If you can find a smart, dedicated professor like Ms. Stewart, take her class and heed her words. Next best thing: Dip into this list. You can let her know what you think here.

Books on how to improve your writing

Clark, How to Write Short (2014) and Writing Tools (2008)
Danziger, Get to the Point (2001)
Gray-Grant, 8 ½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better (2008)
Fiske, The Dictionary of Concise Writing, (2006)
Fogarty, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (2008)
Kallan, Renovating Your Writing, (2013)
King, On Writing, (2000)
Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing (2012)
McCormack, Brief (2014)
Norris, Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2016)
O’Connor, Woe is I (2012)
O’Connor, Words Fail Me (1999)
Rubin, Hey Wait How Do I Write This Email? (2015)
Strunk & White, Elements of Style, (1999)*
Watt & Bradford, An E.B. White Reader (1996)
Yagoda, How to Not Write Bad, (2013)
Zinsser, On Writing Well (1998)

Online resources, tips

American Copyeditors Association
AP Style Guide
AP Style Quizzes
Flesch Readability
Grammar Girl
Harvard’s Shorenstein Center’s Journalist’s Resource (for PR practitioners, too!)
The Publication Coach
Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab
Ragan’s PR Daily
The Writer’s Almanac, American Public Media
Writer’s Circle

Articles on writing tips

BrainPickings Blog (link is to a sample post)
Writer’s Digest (link is to a sample post)

* I do have to add that if you are new to Strunk and White’s legendary The Elements of Style, be aware that much has changed in language since E.B. White updated the work of his beloved teacher, William Strunk, Jr. Mind you, I used to consider this my bible, carrying a ragged, coffee-stained copy with me from apartment to apartment. But I now realize most of the rules have become quaint. This was a recent shock to me. I recommended the book last year to a dear friend, and then revisited it with her. It was sort of like visiting the house you grew up in, realizing it wasn’t an extravagant, magical palace as you remembered it. I still adore White’s short fiction and essays, his The Second Tree from the Corner — both the short story and the collection named after it — will blow the top of your head off. His mastery of language is that impressive. Likewise the book Jill listed as well, An E.B. White Reader. But if you buy The Elements of Style, listen to this podcast by the delightful John McWhorter for a strong dose of context.

For more career advice, these are two posts I reprinted on my blog from an Accenture Career site:

The Art of Authorship

I enjoy writing. And once every three months or so, like a familiar spasm that arrives out of the blue, I think about writing a book. A real book.

The book.

It’s the one I’ve been planning and constructing — and occasionally drafting — for the last seven years. If I complete it, it will be my first book.

Marie CorelliThat may never happen, and that doesn’t bother me. Well, much. But I will, when the spasm returns, sometimes read about writing, by real writers. It can take the form of rereading Anne Lamott’s wonderful Bird by Bird. Or visiting Maria Papova’s extraordinary Brain Pickings blog. This morning, it was reading the fascinating The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, Personally Contributed by Leading Authors of the Day (1890). That link brings you to the long-out-of-print book in full, in digitized form, thanks to the Google Book Project.

Here’s an excerpt, by British novelist Marie Corelli, in a letter on the craft of writing, circa 1888:

I do not think it possible to ‘train’ anyone to be an author … [writing] is the outcome of the mind’s expression; and the questions I would ask of any would-be writer, are not ‘Have you studied the art?’ or, ‘Have you trained yourself?’ — no! — but ‘Have you a thought, and is it worth the telling?’ If so, declare it, simply and with fervour, regardless of what it may bring; write it as you would speak it, and if it has true value it will reach its mark.

If you’re like me, and have the inclination to think about writing more than actually do it (which is certainly no more Walter Mitty-ish than my friends who enjoy reading brochures on yachts with no intentions of buying one, or thumbing through seed catalogs instead of actually planting a garden), you could do worse than spend some time with The Art of Authorship.