Business Writing Books
Books we recommend
Business Writing Books
HBR Guide to Better Business Writing
Brian A. Garner, Harvard Business Review Press, 2013
This excellent guide for managers and executives covers the essentials of thoughtful, well-written business writing. In short, clear chapters with many “Do this, not this” examples, writing expert Brian Garner practices what he teaches. He says it all in 210 value-packed pages. Order this book from your favorite bookseller.
This award-winning book shows how to build business relationships in every email, letter, note, and text. It covers opportunity messages such as thank-yous, congratulations, and condolences, as well as sticky situations like reminding, apologizing, sharing bad news, and saying no. Get an autographed copy from Syntax Training and receive a bookmark of highlights, or order from your favorite bookseller.
Based on the author’s experience helping thousands of professionals write better, the guide shares solutions, tips, and action steps for managers, coaches, and trainers. The guide explains advice such as “Allow just one idea per sentence” and “Coach employees to ask for action.” It’s the ideal manual for people who find themselves continually rewriting other people’s work. Don’t rewrite—help others write better! Order this resource from Syntax Training.
For professionals who want to take their business writing from pretty good to great, this guide features 27 succinct, no-nonsense articles with 262 ways to write better. With emphasis on writing efficiently, confidently, persuasively, and correctly, Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More helps writers succeed on the job and in getting the job. Order the guide from Syntax Training.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Random House, 2007
The book explains that “sticky,” memorable ideas are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional, and they contain stories. (The acronym is SUCCES.) The authors followed their own advice and filled the book with vivid examples, stories, and details. Made to Stick is must reading for people who write to sell products, services, and ideas. Buy the book from your favorite bookseller.
Style and Reference Manuals
For anyone who writes on the job
The Gregg Reference Manual:
A Manual of Style, Grammar, Usage, and Formatting, 11th Edition
William A. Sabin, McGraw-Hill, 2011
“Gregg” is a comprehensive manual with the answer to virtually any question on punctuation, capitalization, and other aspects of writing. Gregg is also a good reference for producing business documents such as minutes and financial statements. Unless you are intimidated by terms like “independent clause,” this is the best reference for correctness in general business writing. Gregg is available spiral-bound from your favorite bookseller, and in a desktop (electronic) version from McGraw-Hill.
For writers at work, with helpful content for newsletter and magazine writers
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
Edited by David Minthorn, Sally Jacobsen, and Paula Froke, Associated Press, 2015
The AP Stylebook features all kinds of entries a journalist or newsletter writer might need: trademark information, names of countries and organizations, and the correct spelling and definition of tricky words—burqa and Bosporus, for example. It includes special sections on writing about business, sports, food, fashion, and religion, and it covers punctuation with crisp examples. “AP” is available in spiral-bound and online versions, and electronic style checkers are available—all from the AP Stylebook online store.
For editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition
The University of Chicago Press, 2010
“Chicago” is the bible of book publishers. It deals with manuscript editing, illustrations, captions, punctuation, electronic publications, and much more. We like and use Chicago (especially the section on hyphenating compound terms), but it’s a specialist’s volume. Unless you are a professional writer or editor, this expensive reference book (about $65) should not be among your first purchases. Chicago is available in hardcover from your bookseller and by online subscription from the publisher.
For writers at work, with helpful content for writers of contracts and other legal documents
Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition
Bryan A. Garner, Oxford University Press, 2009
Garner presents lucid, pragmatic opinions on essential issues of grammar, word usage, punctuation, and style. Of all the style manuals, Garner’s offers the most wit and wisdom. It includes a “Language-Change Index,” which indicates how well accepted a usage is, ranging from Stage 1, widely considered incorrect, to Stage 5, universally accepted as good English. Use Garner’s to fight the good fight for clear language, especially in legal documents. Buy it from your favorite bookseller.
For science writers and editors
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition
American Psychological Association, 2009
This highly regarded volume is made for people who write or edit publications in the behavioral sciences. It includes guidelines on the content and organization of scientific manuscripts; ways to express ideas and reduce bias; and a lot about the correct, effective rendering of illustrations, scientific abbreviations, numbers, and measurements. It provides thorough information on citing publications and other references, including electronic works. It’s available from the APA and your favorite bookseller.
For anyone who writes for Canadians
The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling, 20th Edition
The Canadian Press, 2012
If you write for a Canadian audience and want a straightforward reference on Canadian spelling and capitalization, get Caps and Spelling. After a few pages explaining the rules it follows, this streamlined, efficient volume simply lists rather than explains. Buy it from the Canadian Press in paperback or as a monthly online subscription.
Write Right: A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style, Fourth Edition
Jan Venolia, Ten Speed Press, 2001
In 200 compact pages, this humorous and accurate guide reviews the essential mechanics of writing. Venolia has fun, and her readers do too, with clever drawings illustrating language slips such as “I saw a man on a horse with a wooden leg.” This is a style guide for your desk, but it’s also small enough to carry. When you’re kept waiting, pull it out of your pocket, dip into it for a writing reminder or a grammar gem, and smile. Buy it from your favorite bookseller.
Books on Presentations
Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint: How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas
Christopher Witt with Dale Fetherling, Crown Business, 2009
This inspiring yet practical volume helps leaders communicate a powerful message rather than simply relaying information. Author Witt, who himself avoids the use of slides, offers advice on weaning oneself from PowerPoint and on making the best of it when its use is required. He also shares unique insights on when and why to speak and how to deliver a compelling message. The book is a quick read and a lasting resource. It is available from booksellers.
Point, Click & Wow! The Techniques and Habits of Successful Presenters, Third Edition
Claudyne Wilder, Pfeiffer, 2008
Point, Click & Wow! is a rich guide for anyone who wants to present persuasively using PowerPoint. The preparation checklists are excellent tools for beginners and experts, and the suggestions for avoiding problems can save you and your audience embarrassment and frustration. The book offers excellent advice on using slides creatively to bring concepts and data to life through stories. Buy it from your favorite bookseller.
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery
Garr Reynolds, New Riders, 2008
This lovely book will help you present ideas elegantly and simply. Building on Zen practices, Reynolds applies the principles of restraint, simplicity, and naturalness to presentations. He guides the reader through the steps of preparation, design, and delivery, always focusing on connection with the audience. Vivid before-and-after sample slides illustrate how to apply the principles to presentations. Buy the book from your bookseller.
What’s even better than a business writing book? A quick-reference tool you can use immediately. In our business writing courses, participants get tools, blueprints, and job-aids that do the work of reference manuals. Learn about our classes.
For practical ideas to improve business writing immediately, read our blog.