Blog | Feb 22, 2011 | 3 Comments

[the 7th rule of writing]

[hint: it's a book]

Last year, I published a blog about the six rules of writing, which contained what I think is the best writing advice ever. This week a colleague reminded me about an excellent resource for all writers (professional or otherwise), and I think it should become the seventh rule.

Throw the book at them

My writing partner and I are working on a large project together and it’s been her duty to manage editorial review meetings. Many of the clients for this project learned very formal English in other countries. Their primary job is to compile data and produce research reports, but this project is different. It’s more of an educational tool and a policy paper.

My partner was having a difficult time explaining to our clients why we needed to avoid sounding academic in this kind of a paper. They even argued about whether it was OK to occasionally begin a sentence with “and” or “because.” At one point, she said:

“You really ought to read On Writing Well. It’s the best book on writing and it really explains what I’m talking about–why you sometimes have to break the formal rules of writing in order to be clear.”

She told me later that she re-reads this classic writing guide every five years or so, which I think is an excellent practice. But it’s not just for professional writers like us. As the publisher says:

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day…On Writing Well offers you fundamental principles as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sold, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

I don’t know where my old, dog-eared copy of this book is, so I ordered it for my Kindle. I highly recommend you get a copy for yourself, or go dig out your existing copy.

What other books on writing have you found helpful? Please share!

Photo credit: Pesky Library on flckr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Claire- My copy sits right here on my desk, looking fairly yellowed around the edges, next to the much-faded Chicago Manual of Style. I’m sure I’m due to revisit it, thanks for the reminder. /Anne


Claire Wagner Reply:

My Chicago manual is really old and I am thinking about subscribing to it online. I think it is a reasonable fee. Thanks for that reminder!


Anne Janzer


I love reading books on writing. Even when the authors contradict one another, there’s always something to learn, a new style to try, a different technique to get the ideas flowing. Every new idea helps.


Jay Dolan


Leave a Reply