Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Write Anything (Book Review)

Look at that:  I've already broken one of the rules in How to Write Anything by Laura Brown.  I received a copy of this book, at no cost to me, for review purposes.  (See How to Write a Book Review to see the rule I broke.)

Here's the official description of the book:
A practical guide to everything you'll ever need to write -- at work, at school, and in your personal life.
With more than two hundred how-to entries and easy-to-use models organized into three comprehensive sections on work, school, and personal life, How to Write Anything covers a wide range of topics that make it an essential guide for the whole family. You want your boss to fund a special project. How can you write a persuasive email that will win his approval? It's time to apply to college. How can you write an essay that will stand out? The mother of one of your co-workers has died. What's the best way to express your condolences?
Grounded in a common-sense approach, friendly and supportive, How to Write Anything is Internet-savvy, with advice throughout about choosing the most appropriate medium for your message: e-mail or pen and paper. At once a how-to, a reference book, and a pioneering guide for writing in a changing world, this is the only writing resource you'll ever need.
How to Write Anything is divided into three sections:
  1. The Writing Process
  2. E-Writing and the Technology Revolution
  3. The Entries
Section 1 is about the writing process you probably learned in school:  understand your purpose, understand your reader, and so on.  The author goes on to explain why *gasp* these steps don't necessarily have to be taken in the sequence we learned.

Section 2 addresses the topic of technology:  When is it appropriate to send email, and when will only a "real" paper document serve the purpose?  When we are writing email, what do we need to consider?

Finally, Section 3 covers just about every form of writing I can imagine:  personal writing (e.g., condolence letters, notes to a child's teacher, personal blog, invitations), writing at school (essays, college application essays, internship letters), and writing at work (business bio, letter accepting a job offer, press release).

Each entry includes an overview for that application of writing, and most also contain lists of Dos and Don'ts.  Most, if not all, contain examples of well-written pieces, and some contain examples of poorly written pieces.  These are annotated with the reasons that the sample is good or bad.  Some of the bad examples are amusing, such as the note that opens with "To Whoever Walked Off with My Red Folders."

I like How to Write Anything.  I don't think it's necessary to read cover to cover.  I would suggest reading Section 1 and Section 2, which are brief (fewer than 45 pages in total), then using the rest of the book as a reference.

This is a secular book and, as such, it has examples of invitations to civil union ceremonies and adoption announcements from same-sex couples.  You can decide whether this is comfortable for you or not.

Overall I would say that How to Write Anything is an excellent resource.  I'm often at a loss for what to write in a condolence letter.  My get-well notes always seem to say the same things.  And in less than a year my son will be applying for colleges.  The entries on writing essays for applications, writing requests for recommendations, and writing internship letters will likely come in handy for us!

Links for more information:

1 comment :

  1. sounds like a great book..
    i feel like writing is a dying thing... people just shoot short text messages or short tweets... the long letters and things are slowly going away...


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