Welcome to Monday Favorites, a quasi-regular feature to help you make the transition from weekend to work, because nobody but the boss likes Monday.
Today's favorite: Books on Writing
If you're a marketer you are responsible for creating content. It's likely that you're creating web site copy, press releases, articles, case studies and white papers on a regular basis. But, take a quick survey of corporate writing and one sees a landscape littered with jargon, cliches, and really bad writing.
Writing well is critical and it's what separates you from the pack because good writing supports your company's brand by giving it voice and style.
The following is a list of my favorite writing-related books.
On Writing Well
Author: William Zinser
First Edition: 1976
Zinsser is a prince among men. He's accomplished, cultured, gracious and modest. In On Writing Well, he drives home the necessity of rigorous editing as the key to great writing. I'd never been one for editing. I thought great writing came from being talented so I subscribed to the first draft club—one and done. Zinsser changed all that for me with this book. He claims that he's had a successful career not because he's a great writer but because he's a great editor. He is clearly both.
Whereas On Writing Well is about the 'how' of great writing, Writing to Learn is about the 'why' of writing. Namely, we write nonfiction so that we can learn and so we can help others to learn. Zinsser shows that all subjects are worthy of great writing; mathematics, physics, chemistry, music and art. This book is perfect if you have to cover arcane, technical or esoteric subjects, because it will help you create great, well written information that's engaging to read.
Okay. What does writing a dissertation have to do with marketing? A lot. If you're like any other person who has tried to put pen to paper you've dealt with writer's block. Bolker has spent decades guiding highly educated experts through the process of writing their dissertations. Dissertations are typically focused, technical and go deep in a given subject area, as the writer is trying to communicate their expertise. Sound familiar?
Bolker has developed an approach that helps the writer overcome writer's block and get the job done by eliminating the pressure to write perfectly. This book helped me overcome writer's block and my anxieties to write a 60,000 word book in three months.
Jack Hart is editor at large and writing coach at the award-winning newspaper, The Oregonian. He works with journalists to make their writing sparkle. In this book he deals with writing method, process, structure, force, brevity, clarity, rhythm, humanity, color, voice, mechanics and mastery. This book is a great resource if you write a good deal, but want to get better. Hart has great insight for every aspect of writing.
The Elements of Style
Author: William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White
First Edition: 1918 (w/ many revisions)
What list would be complete without the famous Strunk and White style guide? We still refer to it when there's a question that our resident usage experts can't answer. Our favorite maxim? Omit needless words.
This is a lovely and entertaining look at punctuation. Lynne Truss is a punctuation fanatic and she wages a one-woman war against the misuses that are so prevalent in writing, be they on billboards, brochures or banners. This book is enjoyable and easy to read, but it will make you aware of your punctuation sins. I love a good em dash just like the next guy—Truss helps us to understand how and when to use it properly.
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket Books
First Paperback Edition: 2002
This has nothing to do with publishing your corporate blog or writing white papers, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? On Writing is about one man's life of writing. Of course, it's not just any man, it's Stephen King! I'm recommending this because it's a wonderful look at a famous writer's life of writing. It's real, honest and inspiring. Give it a read this summer if for no other reason than to be entertained. I promise you'll get more out of it. You probably should not expense it, though.