As a business owner, writing is part of the job description. Much of your day may involve writing emails, letters, texts, memos, and social media posts, and writing is an essential skill to communicate effectively.
Thankfully, there are great books out there that will help improve your business writing skills. In this guide, we’ll go over some of the top picks, including:
- Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott) (1994).
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Stephen Pinker, 2014).
- The Elements of Style by (Strunk and White, 1959).
- Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide (Brian Fugere, 2005).
- Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business Kenneth Roman (1981).
- Words that Sell (Richard Bayan, 1984).
- HBR Guide to Better Business Writing (Bryan A. Garner, 2012).
- Business Writing for Dummies (Natalie Canavor, 2013).
- Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t by (Wilma Davidson, 2015).
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences (June Casagrande, 2010).
Continuous learning is essential for a business owner. There are always more lessons to learn from others. If you’re interested in continuing your education formally, check out our article on business courses.
1. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott) (1994)
Bird by Bird is a charming and moving book, filled with anecdotes from Anne Lamott’s life, that offers great advice about the process of writing
For example, the title refers to a story about her brother’s childhood, in which he was overwhelmed by a school project about different bird species. Their father’s advice, to break it down into smaller parts and work through it “bird by bird”.
2. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Stephen Pinker, 2014)
As a professor, scientist, writer of nonfiction, and the chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, Stephen Pinker has encountered a lot of dull and difficult writing in his career.
This book is a reaction to the poorly written academic writing that he was forced to wade through, speaking out about common problems in writing like:
- Sentence structure and word order.
- The passive voice (it shouldn’t always be avoided).
- Using punctuation for both style and grammar.
- The “misuse” of certain words (some words are used incorrectly, but some words’ meanings change over time).
3. The Elements of Style by (Strunk and White, 1959)
This one is a little controversial. Some praise it as an essential classic, while others criticise its advice as outdated.
It is certainly the oldest book on this list, (first published in 1959, based on Strunk’s original work from 1918), so a lot of its advice isn’t applicable to modern-day language and trends.
That said, it’s still worth a read for the quality of writing and general context.
4. Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide (Brian Fugere, 2005)
Fugere’s book offers practical strategies that you can use to improve your everyday business writing, whether it’s emails, memos, or presentations.
It focuses on gutting useless information, industry jargon, and common business writing trends that just don’t help anybody.
He does this by outlining four different “traps” that we’re all guilty of falling into, so we can recognise and avoid them.
5. Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business (Kenneth Roman, 1981)
A great entry-level book that covers the basics of effective business writing and communication. Roman’s advice is applicable to every level of business professional, from entry level to CEO.
The most recent third edition has been updated to include advice on emails and navigating political correctness.
6. Words that Sell (Richard Bayan, 1984)
Bayan’s Words that Sell is a valuable resource for copywriters.
It contains lists of commonly misspelled and confusing words, pretentious phrases, and offers alternatives.
Though some of the specific alternatives in this thesaurus style book may be outdated, the underlying advice about copywriting techniques is still relevant.
7. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing (Bryan A. Garner, 2012)
The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing is another must-read that’ll help you improve in every aspect of modern business writing to write clearly and persuasively, offering advice on:
- Writer’s block.
- Keeping readers’ attention.
- Winning tough audiences.
- Trimming the fat from your writing.
- Striking the right tone.
- Grammar, punctuation, and usage.
8. Business Writing for Dummies (Natalie Canavor, 2013)
A guide to modern business writing, Canavor’s book shows you how to improve your writing with some practical techniques that can be used every day.
It’s all about being clear, informative, and persuasive for different audiences. Canavor shares some excellent techniques that will help you:
- Draft reports, proposals, emails, blog posts, and more.
- Use editing to craft perfect messages.
- Adapt your writing for digital media.
- Advance your career with great writing.
9. Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t by (Wilma Davidson, 2015)
First published in 1994, David’s book is an excellent, results driven choice for anybody who writes for work. It uses examples, charts, cartoons, and anecdotes to show your practical advice you can use in every area of modern business writing, including:
10. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences (June Casagrande, 2010)
While not specifically about business writing, Casagrande offers amazing advice about how to create better pieces of writing, sentence by sentence.
She uses loads of examples to show how much of an impact sentence structure can have on your writing, overall. It might seem a little specialised at first, but these lessons on grammar and syntax will help you improve every form of written communication.
Manage your business finances with confidence
Improving your business writing skills will take time and practice, but better bookkeeping is easy with Countingup.
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Find out more here.