Writing Resources

“Few people realize how badly they write”–William Zinsser, On Writing Well.

I may not realize how badly I write, but I do know that I need a lot of help.

Whether we have hopes of having a book published, or we merely want to write an email that makes sense, we should all want to improve our writing. But since, as far as I know, most of you who read this blog have a blog, you’re already interested in doing that.

Here are some resources that I have found helpful or that have been recommended:

A Guide to Writing Well by Joshua Sowin

Justin Taylor linked to this two or three years ago. Since then, I have read my copy so many times that there’s nothing left to be highlighted. Joshua compiles what he considers to be the most important tips from the books and essays that he has read. I highly recommend this essay; it’s helpful and it’s free.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

This is my favorite book on writing; I’ve read all of it twice, and some chapters several times. It is entertaining but also rich with advice. If you don’t have any other book on writing, this is the one to have.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

This book was on the required list for my college Art History class. I didn’t appreciate it as much then as I do now. The most important rules of grammar and style are set forth in this small book. As stated in the introduction, it makes the case for “cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.”

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life is unlike the first two books I’ve recommended in that it is more of a memoir than a guide. But that just makes it more enjoyable to read, and it’s packed with good advice. If you are interested in writing (or Annie Dillard), you will enjoy this book.

That ends my personal recommendations. I’ve read others that have been helpful, but because of some of the content or language I can’t recommend them.


All three of the books I named above are mentioned in Joshua Sowin’s essay. They were also recommended to me by two friends: Chris Roberts and Brian Hedges.

Chris also recommended the following books that I plan to buy and read soon:

Essential English Grammar by Philip Gucker

Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun

Here is a recommendation by Brian Hedges:

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamotte

Brian, who is a top 500 book reviewer for Amazon, also gives the following advice:

1. Read lots and lots of books with a large diversity in genre and author
2. Write often
3. Ask good writers to critique your work

Sounds like great advice to me. Thanks, Brian and Chris, for the advice and book suggestions!