5 Books to Keep Close to Improve Your Writing
“I want to write a book” is one of the most common statements made today. Everyone potentially has a book inside of them, of course. Our lives are a kaleidoscope of events, circumstances, and experiences. These can make great content for a book, fiction or non-fiction, but just “wanting” to write a book will not make that happen.
There is much more to being an author than ideas and experiences. There is actual writing to do, and that can take months of commitment and motivation.
The other thing it takes is exceptional writing skill – not just creativity of expression, but solid grammar and composition skills too. If you have reservations about your writing skills, here are five books you will want to keep on hand, read, study, and reference. They will give you actionable information and tips on how to improve writing skills.
Your Five Tools
Books on writing can be dry and dull. Everyone remembers Wariners’ Handbook of Grammar and Composition from school – dullsville! They are not like creative writing books that can have great, engaging examples and fun exercises.
But still, there are some that are better than others. Try these on for size.
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
This may seem like an odd choice, but there is much to be learned from this little book you probably read in high school. The beauty of this book lies in its simplicity. Many of us, as authors, love our long complex sentences and our overuse of modifiers. Unless you are authoring a professional, scholarly piece, you can reduce these as you edit and polish your work.
Hemingway became so well known for his simplicity, in fact, that there is now a writing tool called Hemingway Editor. You can actually copy and paste your writing in, and it will do a bit of “cleaning up” for you.
- Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
Of all of the books on writing, this is a favorite of many. After all, who doesn’t find The Simpsons at least kind of funny. Norris points out errors in grammar in a comical way and will have you at least smiling, if not chuckling. But the writing tips are quite serious and will serve to improve your writing skills. It’s really a practical book, for all of its humor, and you should keep it handy as a reference tool. You will not be bored.
- The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier by Bonnie Trenge
While misplaced modifiers can be funny, it is one of the most common mistakes we all make. And misplaced phrases in sentences indicate someone who is not careful about his/her writing.
This little book is short – only 72 pages, but it will be a big help in getting your writing correct and clear. She provides numerous examples of misplaced modifiers (in case you forgot what they are) and provides “fixes,” often by dividing the thought into two sentences, much as Hemingway might have done.
- Conquer Essay Phobia: The Perfect Formula for a Good Grade
While this is a writing skill development e-book for students, there is an amazing number of great tips and examples for all types of writers. All of the most common structural, grammar and composition errors are covered, along with some great bonus tips. Get inspiration and great ideas, along with your skill development. Download it for free on any of four sites, including Amazon and iTunes.
- Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tricks for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty
Here is a unique way to remember grammar “rules.” Attach them to anecdotal stories. And this is exactly what Fogarty does in this book. She has identified the common grammar errors that all writers make, whether in business, as authors, or in their academic lives, and comes up with quirky and sometimes snarky anecdotes that will help you remember the errors. Fogarty is a firm believer that grammar can be fun. In her own words, in the preface to the book, she states,
“My philosophy is that learning about language should be fun. I’m not in this for the thrill of running a metaphorical red pen through email messages or blog posts. Although writing badly is like dressing in lime skorts and an orange plaid sweater – people notice – publicly correcting a stranger’s writing is as rude as asking someone with a fashion problem, ‘Did you think that looked good when you got dressed this morning?’ I would do neither. Instead, I hope to raise the waters of good writing by distributing quick and dirty tips as widely as possible. Really, I can’t resist: I get flashes of crazy memory tricks, funny phrases, and cartoons where Aardvark…and Squiggly…go on grammar adventures, and I love to share them all with you.”
You will enjoy this book, and you will definitely remember the stories and the grammar points.
None of these books will give you great plot lines, characters or themes. That kind of help writing a book must come from within. But your wonderful ideas must be translated into good reading material, and that means amazing writing skills.