How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide

So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people.

But writing a book isn’t easy. As a 21-time New York Times bestselling author, I can tell you: It’s far easier to quit than to finish.

You’re going to be tempted to give up writing your book when you run out of ideas, when your own message bores you, when you get distracted, or when you become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task.

But what if you knew exactly:

  • Where to start…
  • What each step entails…
  • How to overcome fear, procrastination, a nd writer’s block …
  • And how to keep from feeling overwhelmed?

You can write a book—and more quickly than you might think, because these days you have access to more writing tools than ever. 

The key is to follow a proven, straightforward, step-by-step plan .

My goal here is to offer you that book-writing plan.

I’ve used the techniques I outline below to write more than 200 books (including the Left Behind series) over the past 50 years. Yes, I realize writing over four books per year on average is more than you may have thought humanly possible. 

But trust me—with a reliable blueprint, you can get unstuck and finally write your book .

This is my personal approach on how to write a book. I’m confident you’ll find something here that can change the game for you. So, let’s jump in.

  • How to Write a Book From Start to Finish

Part 1: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

  • Establish your writing space.
  • Assemble your writing tools.

Part 2: How to Start Writing a Book

  • Break the project into small pieces.
  • Settle on your BIG idea.
  • Construct your outline.
  • Set a firm writing schedule.
  • Establish a sacred deadline.
  • Embrace procrastination (really!).
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Conduct your research.
  • Start calling yourself a writer.

Part 3: The Book-Writing Itself

  • Think reader-first.
  • Find your writing voice.
  • Write a compelling opener.
  • Fill your story with conflict and tension.
  • Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.
  • Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.
  • Write a resounding ending.

Part 4: Editing Your Book

  • Become a ferocious self-editor.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Part 5: Publishing Your Book
  • Decide on your publishing avenue.
  • Properly format your manuscript.
  • Set up and grow your author platform.
  • Pursue a Literary Agent
  • Writing Your Query Letter
  • Part One: Before You Begin Writing Your Book

You’ll never regret—in fact, you’ll thank yourself later—for investing the time necessary to prepare for such a monumental task.

You wouldn’t set out to cut down a huge grove of trees with just an axe. You’d need a chain saw, perhaps more than one. Something to keep them sharp. Enough fuel to keep them running.

You get the picture. Don’t shortcut this foundational part of the process.

Step 1. Establish your writing space.

To write your book, you don’t need a sanctuary. In fact, I started my career o n my couch facing a typewriter perched on a plank of wood suspended by two kitchen chairs.

What were you saying about your setup again? We do what we have to do.

And those early days on that sagging couch were among the most productive of my career.

Naturally, the nicer and more comfortable and private you can make your writing lair (I call mine my cave), the better.

How to Write a Book Image 1

Real writers can write anywhere .

Some authors write their books in restaurants and coffee shops. My first full time job was at a newspaper where 40 of us clacked away on manual typewriters in one big room—no cubicles, no partitions, conversations hollered over the din, most of my colleagues smoking, teletype machines clattering.

Cut your writing teeth in an environment like that, and anywhere else seems glorious.

Step 2. Assemble your writing tools.

In the newspaper business, there was no time to hand write our stuff and then type it for the layout guys. So I have always written at a keyboard and still write my books that way.

Most authors do, though some hand write their first drafts and then keyboard them onto a computer or pay someone to do that.

No publisher I know would even consider a typewritten manuscript, let alone one submitted in handwriting.

The publishing industry runs on Microsoft Word, so you’ll need to submit Word document files. Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, both will produce the kinds of files you need.

And if you’re looking for a musclebound electronic organizing system, you can’t do better than Scrivener . It works well on both PCs and Macs, and it nicely interacts with Word files.

Just remember, Scrivener has a steep learning curve, so familiarize yourself with it before you start writing.

Scrivener users know that taking the time to learn the basics is well worth it.

Tons of other book-writing tools exist to help you. I’ve included some of the most well-known in my blog po st on book writing software and my writing tools page fo r your reference.

So, what else do you need?

If you are one who handwrites your first drafts, don’t scrimp on paper, pencils, or erasers.

Don’t shortchange yourself on a computer either. Even if someone else is keyboarding for you, you’ll need a computer for research and for communicating with potential agents , edi tors, publishers.

Get the best computer you can afford, the latest, the one with the most capacity and speed.

Try to imagine everything you’re going to need in addition to your desk or table, so you can equip yourself in advance and don’t have to keep interrupting your work to find things like:

  • Paper clips
  • Pencil holders
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Printing paper
  • Paperweight
  • Tape dispensers
  • Cork or bulletin boards
  • Reference works
  • Space heaters
  • Beverage mugs
  • You name it
  • Last, but most crucial, get the best, most ergonomic chair you can afford.

If I were to start my career again with that typewriter on a plank, I would not sit on that couch. I’d grab another straight-backed kitchen chair or something similar and be proactive about my posture and maintaining a healthy spine.

There’s nothing worse than trying to be creative and immerse yourself in writing while you’re in agony . The chair I work in today cost more than my first car!

How to Write a Book Image 2

If you’ve never used some of the items I listed above and can’t imagine needing them, fine. But make a list of everything you know you’ll need so when the actual writing begins, you’re already equipped.

As you grow as a writer and actually start making money at it, you can keep upgrading your writing space.

Where I work now is light years from where I started. But the point is, I didn’t wait to start writing until I could have a great spot in which to do it.

  • Part Two: How to Start Writing a Book

Step 1. Break your book into small pieces.

Writing a book feels like a colossal project, because it is! Bu t your manuscript w ill be made up of many small parts.

An old adage says that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time .

Try to get your mind off your book as a 400-or-so-page monstrosity.

It can’t be written all at once any more than that proverbial elephant could be eaten in a single sitting.

See your book for what it is: a manuscript made up of sentences, paragraphs, pages. Those pages will begin to add up, and though after a week you may have barely accumulated double digits, a few months down the road you’ll be into your second hundred pages.

So keep it simple.

Start by distilling you r big book idea from a page or so to a single sentence—your premise. The more specific that one-sentence premise, the more it will keep you focused while you’re writing.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you can turn your big idea into one sentence, which can then b e expanded to an outline , you have to settle on exactly what that big idea is.

Step 2. Settle on your BIG idea.

To be book-worthy, your idea has to be killer.

You need to write something about which you’re passionate , something that gets you up in the morning, draws you to the keyboard, and keeps you there. It should excite not only you, but also anyone you tell about it.

I can’t overstate the importance of this.

If you’ve tried and failed to finish your book before—maybe more than once—it could be that the basic premise was flawed. Maybe it was worth a blog post or an article but couldn’t carry an entire book.

Think The Hunger Games , Harry Potter , or How to Win Friends and Influence People . The market is crowded, the competition fierce. There’s no more room for run-of-the-mill ideas. Your premise alone should make readers salivate.

Go for the big concept book.

How do you know you’ve got a winner? Does it have legs? In other words, does it stay in your mind, growing and developing every time you think of it?

Run it past loved ones and others you trust.

Does it raise eyebrows? Elicit Wows? Or does it result in awkward silences?

The right concept simply works, and you’ll know it when you land on it. Most importantly, your idea must capture you in such a way that you’re compelled to write it . Otherwise you will lose interest halfway through and never finish.

Step 3. Construct your outline.

Writing your book without a clear vision of where you’re going usually ends in disaster.

Even if you ’re writing a fiction book an d consider yourself a Pantser* as opposed to an Outliner, you need at least a basic structure .

[*Those of us who write by the seat of our pants and, as Stephen King advises, pu t interesting characters i n difficult situations and write to find out what happens]

You don’t have to call it an outline if that offends your sensibilities. But fashion some sort of a directional document that provides structure for your book and also serves as a safety net.

If you get out on that Pantser highwire and lose your balance, you’ll thank me for advising you to have this in place.

Now if you’re writing a nonfiction book, there’s no substitute for an outline .

Potential agents or publishers require this in your proposal . T hey want to know where you’re going, and they want to know that you know. What do you want your reader to learn from your book, and how will you ensure they learn it?

Fiction or nonfiction, if you commonly lose interest in your book somewhere in what I call the Marathon of the Middle, you likely didn’t start with enough exciting ideas .

That’s why and outline (or a basic framework) is essential. Don’t even start writing until you’re confident your structure will hold up through the end.

You may recognize this novel structure illustration.

Did you know it holds up—with only slight adaptations—for nonfiction books too? It’s self-explanatory for novelists; they list their plot twists and developments and arrange them in an order that best serves to increase tension .

What separates great nonfiction from mediocre? The same structure!

Arrange your points and evidence in the same way so you’re setting your reader up for a huge payoff, and then make sure you deliver.

If your nonfiction book is a memoir , an autobiography , or a biography, structure it like a novel and you can’t go wrong.

But even if it’s a straightforward how-to book, stay as close to this structure as possible, and you’ll see your manuscript come alive.

Make promises early, triggering your reader to anticipate fresh ideas, secrets, inside information, something major that will make him thrilled with the finished product.

How to write a book - graph

While a nonfiction book may not have as much action or dialogue or character development as a novel, you can inject tension by showing where people have failed before and how your reader can succeed.

You can even make the how-to project look impossible until you pay off that setup with your unique solution.

Keep your outline to a single page for now. But make sure every major point is represented, so you’ll always know where you’re going.

And don’t worry if you’ve forgotten the basics of classic outlining or have never felt comfortable with the concept.

Your outline must serve you. If that means Roman numerals and capital and lowercase letters and then Arabic numerals, you can certainly fashion it that way. But if you just want a list of sentences that synopsize your idea, that’s fine too.

Simply start with your working title, then your premise, then—for fiction, list all the major scenes that fit into the rough structure above.

For nonfiction, try to come up with chapter titles and a sentence or two of what each chapter will cover.

Once you have your one-page outline, remember it is a fluid document meant to serve you and your book. Expand it, change it, play with it as you see fit—even during the writing process .

Step 4. Set a firm writing schedule.

Ideally, you want to schedule at least six hours per week to write your book.

That may consist of three sessions of two hours each, two sessions of three hours, or six one-hour sessions—whatever works for you.

I recommend a regular pattern (same times, same days) that can most easily become a habit. But if that’s impossible, just make sure you carve out at least six hours so you can see real progress.

Having trouble finding the time to write a book? News flash—you won’t find the time. You have to make it.

I used the phrase carve out above for a reason. That’s what it takes.

Something in your calendar will likely have to be sacrificed in the interest of writing time . 

Make sure it’s not your family—they should always be your top priority. Never sacrifice your family on the altar of your writing career.

But beyond that, the truth is that we all find time for what we really want to do.

Many writers insist they have no time to write, but they always seem to catch the latest Netflix original series, or go to the next big Hollywood feature. They enjoy concerts, parties, ball games, whatever.

How important is it to you to finally write your book? What will you cut from your calendar each week to ensure you give it the time it deserves?

  • A favorite TV show?
  • An hour of sleep per night? (Be careful with this one; rest is crucial to a writer.)

Successful writers make time to write.

When writing becomes a habit, you’ll be on your way.

Step 5. Establish a sacred deadline.

Without deadlines, I rarely get anything done. I need that motivation.

Admittedly, my deadlines are now established in my contracts from publishers.

If you’re writing your first book, you probably don’t have a contract yet. To ensure you finish your book, set your own deadline—then consider it sacred .

Tell your spouse or loved one or trusted friend. Ask that they hold you accountable.

Now determine—and enter in your calendar—the number of pages you need to produce per writing session to meet your deadline. If it proves unrealistic, change the deadline now.

If you have no idea how many pages or words you typically produce per session, you may have to experiment before you finalize those figures.

Say you want to finish a 400-page manuscript by this time next year.

Divide 400 by 50 weeks (accounting for two off-weeks), and you get eight pages per week. 

Divide that by your typical number of writing sessions per week and you’ll know how many pages you should finish per session.

Now is the time to adjust these numbers, while setting your deadline and determining your pages per session.

Maybe you’d rather schedule four off weeks over the next year. Or you know your book will be unusually long.

Change the numbers to make it realistic and doable, and then lock it in. Remember, your deadline is sacred.

Step 6. Embrace procrastination (really!).

You read that right. Don’t fight it; embrace it.

You wouldn’t guess it from my 200+ published books, but I’m the king of procrastinators .

Don’t be. So many authors are procrastinators that I’ve come to wonder if it’s a prerequisite.

The secret is to accept it and, in fact, schedule it.

I quit fretting and losing sleep over procrastinating when I realized it was inevitable and predictable, and also that it was productive.

Sound like rationalization?

Maybe it was at first. But I learned that while I’m putting off the writing, my subconscious is working on my book. It’s a part of the process. When you do start writing again, you’ll enjoy the surprises your subconscious reveals to you.

So, knowing procrastination is coming, book it on your calendar .

Take it into account when you’re determining your page quotas. If you have to go back in and increase the number of pages you need to produce per session, do that (I still do it all the time).

But—and here’s the key—you must never let things get to where that number of pages per day exceeds your capacity.

It’s one thing to ratchet up your output from two pages per session to three. But if you let it get out of hand, you’ve violated the sacredness of your deadline.

How can I procrastinate and still meet more than 190 deadlines?

Because I keep the deadlines sacred.

Step 7. Eliminate distractions to stay focused.

Are you as easily distracted as I am?

Have you found yourself writing a sentence and then checking your email? Writing another and checking Facebook? Getting caught up in the pictures of 10 Sea Monsters You Wouldn’t Believe Actually Exist?

Then you just have to check out that precious video from a talk show where the dad surprises the family by returning from the war.

That leads to more and more of the same. Once I’m in, my writing is forgotten, and all of a sudden the day has gotten away from me.

The answer to these insidious timewasters?

Look into these apps that allow you to block your email, social media, browsers, game apps, whatever you wish during the hours you want to write. Some carry a modest fee, others are free.

  • Freedom app
  • FocusWriter

Step 8. Conduct your research.

Yes, research is a vital part of the process, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfict i on .

Fiction means more than just making up a story .

Your details and logic and technical and historical details must be right for your novel to be believable.

And for nonfiction, even if you’re writing about a subject in which you’re an expert—as I’m doing here—getting all the facts right will polish your finished product.

In fact, you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve researched a fact or two while writing this blog post alone.

The importance of research when writing

The last thing you want is even a small mistake due to your lack of proper research .

Regardless the detail, trust me, you’ll hear from readers about it.

Your credibility as an author and an expert hinges on creating trust with your reader. That dissolves in a hurry if you commit an error.

My favorite research resources:

  • World Almanacs : These alone list almost everything you need for accurate prose: facts, data, government information, and more. For my novels, I often use these to come up with ethnically accurate character names .
  • The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus : The online version is great, because it’s lightning fast. You couldn’t turn the pages of a hard copy as quickly as you can get where you want to onscreen. One caution: Never let it be obvious you’ve consulted a thesaurus. You’re not looking for the exotic word that jumps off the page. You’re looking for that common word that’s on the tip of your tongue.
  • WorldAtlas.com : Here you’ll find nearly limitless information about any continent, country, region, city, town, or village. Names, monetary units, weather patterns, tourism info, and even facts you wouldn’t have thought to search for. I get ideas when I’m digging here, for both my novels and my nonfiction books.

Step 9. Start calling yourself a writer.

Your inner voice may tell you, “You’re no writer and you never will be. Who do you think you are, trying to write a book?”

That may be why you’ve stalled at writing your book in the past .

But if you’re working at writing, studying writing, practicing writing, that makes you a writer. Don’t wait till you reach some artificial level of accomplishment before calling yourself a writer.

A cop in uniform and on duty is a cop whether he’s actively enforced the law yet or not. A carpenter is a carpenter whether he’s ever built a house.

Self-identify as a writer now and you’ll silence that inner critic —who, of course, is really you. 

Talk back to yourself if you must. It may sound silly, but acknowledging yourself as a writer can give you the confidence to keep going and finish your book.

Are you a writer? Say so.

  • Part Three: The Book-Writing Itself

Step 1. Think reader-first.

This is so important that that you should write it on a sticky note and affix it to your monitor so you’re reminded of it every time you write.

Every decision you make about your manuscript must be run through this filter.

Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-, agent-, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner circle- or critics-first.

Reader-first, last, and always .

If every decision is based on the idea of reader-first, all those others benefit anyway.

When fans tell me they were moved by one of my books, I think back to this adage and am grateful I maintained that posture during the writing.

Does a scene bore you? If you’re thinking reader-first, it gets overhauled or deleted.

Where to go, what to say, what to write next? Decide based on the reader as your priority.

Whatever your gut tells you your reader would prefer, that’s your answer.

Whatever will intrigue him, move him, keep him reading, those are your marching orders.

So, naturally, you need to know your reader. Rough age? General interests? Loves? Hates? Attention span?

When in doubt, look in the mirror . 

The surest way to please your reader is to please yourself. Write what you would want to read and trust there is a broad readership out there that agrees.

Step 2. Find your writing voice.

Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.

You can find yours by answering these quick questions :

  • What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
  • Who’s the most important person you told about it?
  • What did you sound like when you did?
  • That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.

That’s all there is to it.

If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.

Here’s a blog I posted that’ll walk you through the process .

Step 3. Write a compelling opener.

If you’re stuck because of the pressure of crafting the perfect opening line for your book, you’re not alone.

And neither is your angst misplaced.

This is not something you should put off and come back to once you’ve started on the rest of the first chapter.

How to Write a Book Image 5

Oh, it can still change if the story dictates that . But settling on a good one will really get you off and running.

It’s unlikely you’ll write a more important sentence than your first one , whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Make sure you’re thrilled with it and then watch how your confidence—and momentum—soars.

Most great first lines fall into one of these categories:

1. Surprising

Fiction : “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nonfiction : “By the time Eustace Conway was seven years old, he could throw a knife accurately enough to nail a chipmunk to a tree.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

2. Dramatic Statement

Fiction : “They shoot the white girl first.” —Toni Morrison, Paradise

Nonfiction : “I was five years old the first time I ever set foot in prison.” —Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand

3. Philosophical

Fiction : “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Nonfiction : “It’s not about you.” —Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

Fiction : “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Nonfiction : “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” —Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Great opening lines from other classics may give you ideas for yours. Here’s a list of famous openers .

Step 4. Fill your story with conflict and tension.

Your reader craves conflict, and yes, this applies to nonfiction readers as well.

In a novel, if everything is going well and everyone is agreeing, your reader will soon lose interest and find something else to do.

Are two of your characters talking at the dinner table? Have one say something that makes the other storm out.

Some deep-seeded rift in their relationship has surfaced—just a misunderstanding, or an injustice?

Thrust people into conflict with each other . 

That’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Certain nonfiction genres won’t lend themselves to that kind of conflict, of course, but you can still inject tension by setting up your reader for a payoff in later chapters. Check out some of the current bestselling nonfiction works to see how writers accomplish this.

Somehow they keep you turning those pages, even in a simple how-to title.

Tension is the secret sauce that will propel your reader through to the end . 

And sometimes that’s as simple as implying something to come.

Step 5. Turn off your internal editor while writing the first draft.

Many of us perfectionists find it hard to write a first draft—fiction or nonfiction—without feeling compelled to make every sentence exactly the way we want it.

That voice in your head that questions every word, every phrase, every sentence, and makes you worry you’re being redundant or have allowed cliches to creep in—well, that’s just your editor alter ego.

He or she needs to be told to shut up .

Turning off your inner self-editor

This is not easy.

Deep as I am into a long career, I still have to remind myself of this every writing day. I cannot be both creator and editor at the same time. That slows me to a crawl, and my first draft of even one brief chapter could take days.

Our job when writing that first draft is to get down the story or the message or the teaching—depending on your genre.

It helps me to view that rough draft as a slab of meat I will carve tomorrow .

I can’t both produce that hunk and trim it at the same time.

A cliche, a redundancy, a hackneyed phrase comes tumbling out of my keyboard, and I start wondering whether I’ve forgotten to engage the reader’s senses or aimed for his emotions.

That’s when I have to chastise myself and say, “No! Don’t worry about that now! First thing tomorrow you get to tear this thing up and put it back together again to your heart’s content!”

Imagine yourself wearing different hats for different tasks , if that helps—whatever works to keep you rolling on that rough draft. You don’t need to show it to your worst enemy or even your dearest love. This chore is about creating. Don’t let anything slow you down.

Some like to write their entire first draft before attacking the revision. As I say, whatever works.

Doing it that way would make me worry I’ve missed something major early that will cause a complete rewrite when I discover it months later. I alternate creating and revising.

The first thing I do every morning is a heavy edit and rewrite of whatever I wrote the day before. If that’s ten pages, so be it. I put my perfectionist hat on and grab my paring knife and trim that slab of meat until I’m happy with every word.

Then I switch hats, tell Perfectionist Me to take the rest of the day off, and I start producing rough pages again.

So, for me, when I’ve finished the entire first draft, it’s actually a second draft because I have already revised and polished it in chunks every day.

THEN I go back through the entire manuscript one more time, scouring it for anything I missed or omitted, being sure to engage the reader’s senses and heart, and making sure the whole thing holds together.

I do not submit anything I’m not entirely thrilled with .

I know there’s still an editing process it will go through at the publisher, but my goal is to make my manuscript the absolute best I can before they see it.

Compartmentalize your writing vs. your revising and you’ll find that frees you to create much more quickly.

Step 6. Persevere through The Marathon of the Middle.

Most who fail at writing a book tell me they give up somewhere in what I like to call The Marathon of the Middle.

That’s a particularly rough stretch for novelists who have a great concept, a stunning opener, and they can’t wait to get to the dramatic ending. But they bail when they realize they don’t have enough cool stuff to fill the middle.

They start padding, trying to add scenes just for the sake of bulk, but they’re soon bored and know readers will be too.

This actually happens to nonfiction writers too.

The solution there is in the outlining stage , being sure your middle points and chapters are every bit as valuable and magnetic as the first and last.

If you strategize the progression of your points or steps in a process—depending on nonfiction genre—you should be able to eliminate the strain in the middle chapters.

For novelists, know that every book becomes a challenge a few chapters in. The shine wears off, keeping the pace and tension gets harder, and it’s easy to run out of steam.

But that’s not the time to quit. Force yourself back to your structure, come up with a subplot if necessary, but do whatever you need to so your reader stays engaged.

Fiction writer or nonfiction author, The Marathon of the Middle is when you must remember why you started this journey in the first place.

It isn’t just that you want to be an author. You have something to say. You want to reach the masses with your message.

Yes, it’s hard. It still is for me—every time. But don’t panic or do anything rash, like surrendering. Embrace the challenge of the middle as part of the process. If it were easy, anyone could do it.

Step 7. Write a resounding ending.

This is just as important for your nonfiction book as your novel. It may not be as dramatic or emotional, but it could be—especially if you’re writing a memoir.

But even a how-to or self-help book needs to close with a resounding thud, the way a Broadway theater curtain meets the floor .

How do you ensure your ending doesn’t fizzle ?

  • Don’t rush it . Give readers the payoff they’ve been promised. They’ve invested in you and your book the whole way. Take the time to make it satisfying.
  • Never settle for close enough just because you’re eager to be finished. Wait till you’re thrilled with every word, and keep revising until you are.
  • If it’s unpredictable, it had better be fair and logical so your reader doesn’t feel cheated. You want him to be delighted with the surprise, not tricked.
  • If you have multiple ideas for how your book should end, go for the heart rather than the head, even in nonfiction. Readers most remember what moves them.
  • Part Four: Rewriting Your Book

Step 1. Become a ferocious self-editor.

Agents and editors can tell within the first two pages whether your manuscript is worthy of consideration. That sounds unfair, and maybe it is. But it’s also reality, so we writers need to face it.

How can they often decide that quickly on something you’ve devoted months, maybe years, to?

Because they can almost immediately envision how much editing would be required to make those first couple of pages publishable. If they decide the investment wouldn’t make economic sense for a 300-400-page manuscript, end of story.

Your best bet to keep an agent or editor reading your manuscript?

You must become a ferocious self-editor. That means:

  • Omit needless words
  • Choose the simple word over one that requires a dictionary
  • Avoid subtle redundancies , like “He thought in his mind…” (Where else would someone think?)
  • Avoid hedging verbs like almost frowned, sort of jumped, etc.
  • Generally remove the word that —use it only when absolutely necessary for clarity
  • Give the reader credit and resist the urge to explain , as in, “She walked through the open door.” (Did we need to be told it was open?)
  • Avoid too much stage direction (what every character is doing with every limb and digit)
  • Avoid excessive adjectives
  • Show, don’t tell
  • And many more

For my full list and how to use them, click here . (It’s free.)

When do you know you’re finished revising? When you’ve gone from making your writing better to merely making it different. That’s not always easy to determine, but it’s what makes you an author. 

Step 2. Find a mentor.

Get help from someone who’s been where you want to be.

Imagine engaging a mentor who can help you sidestep all the amateur pitfalls and shave years of painful trial-and-error off your learning curve.

Just make sure it’s someone who really knows the writing and publishing world. Many masquerade as mentors and coaches but have never really succeeded themselves.

Look for someone widely-published who knows how to work with agents, editors, and publishers .

There are many helpful mentors online . I teach writers through this free site, as well as in my members-only Writers Guild .

Step 1. Decide on your publishing avenue.

In simple terms, you have two options when it comes to publishing your book:

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers take all the risks. They pay for everything from editing, proofreading, typesetting, printing, binding, cover art and design, promotion, advertising, warehousing, shipping, billing, and paying author royalties.

2. Self-publishing

Everything is on you. You are the publisher, the financier, the decision-maker. Everything listed above falls to you. You decide who does it, you approve or reject it, and you pay for it. The term self-publishing is a bit of a misnomer, however, because what you’re paying for is not publishing, but printing. 

Both avenues are great options under certain circumstances. 

Not sure which direction you want to take? Click here to read my in-depth guide to publishing a book . It’ll show you the pros and cons of each, what each involves, and my ultimate recommendation.

Step 2: Properly format your manuscript.

Regardless whether you traditionally or self-publish your book, proper formatting is critical.

Because poor formatting makes you look like an amateur .

Readers and agents expect a certain format for book manuscripts, and if you don’t follow their guidelines, you set yourself up for failure.

Best practices when formatting your book:

  • Use 12-point type
  • Use a serif font; the most common is Times Roman
  • Double space your manuscript
  • No extra space between paragraphs
  • Only one space between sentences
  • Indent each paragraph half an inch (setting a tab, not using several spaces)
  • Text should be flush left and ragged right, not justified
  • If you choose to add a line between paragraphs to indicate a change of location or passage of time, center a typographical dingbat (like ***) on the line
  • Black text on a white background only
  • One-inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides (the default in Word)
  • Create a header with the title followed by your last name and the page number. The header should appear on each page other than the title page.

If you need help implementing these formatting guidelines, click here to read my in-depth post on formatting your manuscript .

Step 3. Set up your author website and grow your platform.

All serious authors need a website. Period.

Because here’s the reality of publishing today…

You need an audience to succeed.

If you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers will Google your name to see if you have a website and a following.

If you want to self-publish, you need a fan base.

And your author website serves as a hub for your writing, where agents, publishers, readers, and fans can learn about your work.

Don’t have an author website yet? Click here to read my tutorial on setting this up.

Step 4. Pursue a Literary Agent.

There remain a few traditional publishers (those who pay you and take the entire financial risk of publishing your book rather than the other way around) who accept unsolicited submissions, but I do NOT recommend going that route. 

Your submission will likely wind up in what is known in the business as the slush pile. That means some junior staff member will be assigned to get to it when convenient and determine whether to reject it out of hand (which includes the vast majority of the submissions they see) or suggest the publisher’s editorial board consider it.

While I am clearly on record urging you to exhaust all your efforts to traditionally publish before resorting to self-publishing (in other words, paying to be printed), as I say, I do not recommend submitting unsolicited material even to those publishers who say they accept such efforts.

Even I don’t try to navigate the publishing world by myself, despite having been an author, an editor, a publisher, and a writing coach over the last 50 years.

That’s why I have an agent and you need one too.

Many beginning writers naturally wonder why they should share any of their potential income with an agent (traditionally 15%). First, they don’t see any of that income unless you’re getting your 85% at the same time. And second, everyone I know in the business is happy to have someone in their corner, making an agent a real bargain.

I don’t want to have to personally represent myself and my work. I want to stay in my creative lane and let a professional negotiate every clause of the contract and win me the best advance and rights deal possible.

Once under contract, I work directly with the publishing house’s editor and proofreader, but I leave the financial business to my agent.

Ultimately, an agent’s job is to protect your rights and make you money. They profit only when you do.

That said, landing an agent can be as difficult and painstaking as landing a publisher. They know the market, they know the editors, they know what publishers want, and they can advise you how to put your best foot forward.

But how do you know who to trust? Credible, trustworthy agents welcome scrutiny. If you read a book in your genre that you like, check the Acknowledgments page for the agent’s name. If the author thinks enough of that person to mention them glowingly, that’s a great endorsement.

If you’re writing in the inspirational market, peruse agents listed in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide . If you’re writing for the general market, try The Writer’s Market . If you know any published authors, ask about their agents.

The guides that list agents also include what they’re looking for, what they specialize in, and sometimes even what they’re not interested in. Study these to determine potential agents who ply their trade in your genre. Visit their websites for their submission guidelines, and follow these to a T.

They may ask for a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, or even sample chapters. Be sure not to send more or less than they suggest. 

The best, and most logical place to start is by sending them a query letter. Query simply means question, and in essence the question your letter asks is whether you may send them more.

Step 5: Writing Your Query Letter.

It’s time to move from author to salesperson.

Your query letter will determine whether a literary agent asks to see more, sends you a cordial form letter to let you down easy, or simply doesn’t respond.

Sadly, many agents stipulate on their websites that if you hear nothing after a certain number of weeks, you should take that as an indication that they’re not interested. Frankly, to me, this is frustrating to the writer and lazy on the part of the agent. Surely, in this technological age, it should be easy to hit one button and send a note to someone who might otherwise wonder if the query reached the agent at all.

But that’s the reality we deal with.

So, the job of your one-page single-spaced email letter is to win a response—best case scenario: an invitation to send more: a proposal or even the manuscript. 

Basically, you’re selling yourself and your work. Write a poor query letter and an agent will assume your book is also poorly written.

Without being gimmicky or cute, your letter must intrigue an agent. 

Your query letter should:

  • Be addressed to a specific person (not to the staff of the agency or “To Whom It May Concern”)*
  • Present your book idea simply
  • Evidence your style
  • Show you know who your readers are
  • Clarify your qualifications
  • Exhibit flexibility and professionalism

*If you see a list of agents in a firm, choose one from the middle or bottom of the list. It could be that they get less personal mail than the person whose name is on the door. Who knows? That you single them out may make them see your query in a more favorable light.

For some great advice on writing a query letter, check this out: https://janefriedman.com/query-letters/  

  • You Have What It Takes to Write a Book

Writing a book is a herculean task, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

You can do this .

Take it one step at a time and vow to stay focused. And who knows, maybe by this time next year you’ll be holding a published copy of your book. :)

I’ve created an exclusive writing guide called How to Maximize Your Writing Time that will help you stay on track and finish writing your book.

Get your FREE copy by clicking the button below.

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

White blooming flower

Faith-Based Words and Phrases

writing book skills

What You and I Can Learn From Patricia Raybon

writing book skills

Before you go, be sure to grab my FREE guide:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

Just tell me where to send it:

writing book skills

Enter your email to instantly access the free PDF version of How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps .

writing book skills

Enter your email to instantly access my ultimate guide: 

How to maximize your writing time.

SkillsYouNeed

  • Writing Skills

The Skills You Need to Write a Book

Search SkillsYouNeed:

Writing Skills:

  • A - Z List of Writing Skills

The Essentials of Writing

  • Common Mistakes in Writing
  • Introduction to Grammar
  • Improving Your Grammar
  • Active and Passive Voice
  • Punctuation
  • Clarity in Writing
  • Writing Concisely
  • Coherence in Writing
  • Gender Neutral Language
  • Figurative Language
  • When to Use Capital Letters
  • Using Plain English
  • Writing in UK and US English
  • Understanding (and Avoiding) Clichés
  • The Importance of Structure
  • Know Your Audience
  • Know Your Medium
  • Formal and Informal Writing Styles
  • Note-Taking from Reading
  • Note-Taking for Verbal Exchanges
  • Creative Writing
  • Top Tips for Writing Fiction
  • Writer's Voice
  • Writing for Children
  • Writing for Pleasure
  • Writing for the Internet
  • Journalistic Writing
  • Technical Writing
  • Academic Writing
  • Editing and Proofreading

Writing Specific Documents

  • Writing a CV or Résumé
  • Writing a Covering Letter
  • Writing a Personal Statement
  • Writing Reviews
  • Using LinkedIn Effectively
  • Business Writing
  • Study Skills
  • Writing Your Dissertation or Thesis

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter and start improving your life in just 5 minutes a day.

You'll get our 5 free 'One Minute Life Skills' and our weekly newsletter.

We'll never share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Why do you write? It's the essential first question that every writer must ask themselves. While the act of writing makes a writer, a book is a whole other creature.

What does it take to write a book? An inherent passion and urge to write forms the beginning path of many writers, as does a love for reading and storytelling as a whole. That thirst and need to write leads you to learn more about the skills you require to write a book. Here's a primer on what you should know to get started on your writer's journey.

Character Development and Other Elements of Writing a Book

In fiction, character development is one of the essential elements you need when you write a book.

Most modern novels are character-driven these days. That means the story follows the growth and choices of the main character or characters. If your character narrates their story from an unreliable point-of-view, what's the reason?

What makes a character likable or not? You can still like a villain in a "love to hate them" way, especially if you can understand how their motives got twisted over time and they have good qualities like wit — think Crowley in "Supernatural."

Consider your favorite characters and how they grow as the story develops. What challenges do they face internally and externally? Think about the "characters" in your own life, the people you know. How do people grow and change? How have you grown or remained stagnant in your life?

Did you know that place can also be a character? In speculative fiction and magical realism, many authors use mood and tone to make place feel alive, which adds to the atmosphere of the novel. This strategy can help create tension and suspension of time as the plot unfolds. Each element of writing interconnects, but people relate to people first and foremost, no matter the genre.

Point of View

As an element of writing, point of view refers to who tells the story.

Think of the equivalent German word gesichtspunkt , translated as "face point," or the direction your face is pointed . What your characters do and say and where they go all inform the story.

The narrative in the "I" point of view is also known as the first person. You can't "head jump" in the first person unless the character is dead, and that's challenging in the first person since the character becomes more god-like than human.

What about the second or third person? The second person refers to using the "you" point-of-view, and the third person refers to the "he," "she" and "they" perspectives. In the third person, you also can keep the point-of-view (PoV) limited to one character or omniscient, covering all characters. When you have a third person multiple PoV , you provide your readers with varying points of view, to enrich your plotline and familiarize readers with what’s happening in your characters’ heads and hearts.

Showing vs. Telling

As a writer, you bring the reader into the scene with an active voice, using language that shows the reader instead of telling them what's happening.

Active language avoids the passive "to be" forms of verbs. You eliminate excess words to get to the meat of the story. Aim to explore each scene through the representation of three senses, such as sight, smell and sound, to make a scene feel full experientially.

An implicit contract exists between readers and writers: Readers reasonably expect that if you raise the stakes, you follow through and deliver on those stakes. The character must triumph or fail, and the reader must be surprised in a way that makes sense given the unfolding plot. You must follow the general rules of your genre , and if you write science fiction, the science must prove sound.

Do you know the difference between your voice as a writer and those of your characters? Voice refers to the style of the author that makes the writing unique, conveying attitude, character and personality, but when you write a book, your characters have their own voices.

The choice of content, words and punctuation use make up a writer's voice. It's what you shine a light on and the way you do it. Perhaps you tend to make place a character, while your characters each take a turn with their perspectives. That's an example of balancing the author's voice with character voice. You can find out more about your characters by developing profiles about their physical lives but also interviewing them like real people.

A writer's voice may take time to develop. The key is to keep writing, looking for what's unique in your style and honing what works for you. Look to other authors for examples, but never plagiarize.

The Importance of Authority and Research

Bob Woodward released "FEAR: Trump in the White House" in 2018 on the anniversary of 9/11.

Woodward is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize , associated editor of The Washington Post and known for breaking the Watergate Scandal. He's a highly regarded political journalist, and his authority on these topics makes him the perfect person to write about them. Readers trust that Woodward has done his research, another element of the reader-writer contract.

Woodward's research approach is famous, and for this latest book, he spent 19 months researching in real-time the current presidential style of decision-making and life in the White House. Woodward aims to "uncover the best possible version of the truth," which goes back to the question: Why do you write? Woodward is both influential and impartial, and his works allow readers to understand the current issues of the time in a relatable and real way — especially how modern leaders shape the country.

A good writer never stops reading. Include more than your Twitter and Facebook feeds in your reading. How often do you read your local newspaper? Do you read outside of your genre? Read for enjoyment, but also read to develop your craft, which can come from other genres too.

Write about what you read, and take notes. What worked for you? What didn't work? How can you apply techniques you read about to your own book?

Grammar and Editing

You don't need to be a professional editor, but strive to learn more about the mechanics of grammar on a daily basis. Also, did you know that no matter how good at writing and grammar you are, you will always need a professional editor to help you with your book ?

When you know the rules, you can break them effectively. Most publishers of novels work with the Chicago Manual of Style, but your book may require knowledge of APA if it's related to psychology and has sources you need to cite. For a few basics in grammar, check out these resources:

  • Grammar Girl : This tool is an online resource that provides quick and dirty tips for when you get confused about whether to use "beckon call" or "beck and call" or where and when to place a comma. Writer's Digest consistently lists Grammar Girl as an essential resource for writers.
  • The Elements of Style : Written by William Strunk, Jr. in 1918, this book is still recommended for all types of writers to know the classic rules of writing so that they can then learn to properly break those rules.

You need to make friends with routine no matter how fabulously eccentric you think you are.

Without routine, you'll take a lifetime to write a book. Your routine belongs uniquely to you, and it may shift over the course of days, months or years, just as you do in preference.

What do you like to have around you while writing? Is it a quiet corner in your home by a window or a bustling coffee shop with a quippy barista? Do you prefer to write before sunrise or after sunset? Get to know your quirks and preferences in your routine, and keep what works. Start developing a healthier writing routine by setting small goals for yourself, such as journaling for 10 minutes a day.

On Getting It Down: Plotting vs. Pantsing

There's a spectrum of writing approaches to conquering the novel that you commonly hear about during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.

For NaNoWriMo, you write 50,000 words in 30 days . It's a great way to get by your inner editor and perfectionist and get the work down on paper. It's said that writers come in two camps: You're either a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter has an eye for organization and forming an outline of the book and, in the extreme, they may spend more time researching than writing. A pantser writes by the seat of their pants and prefers to let the book unfold. A pantser risks letting whim guide their writing and may end up with a disjointed mess without a plot.

All writers fall somewhere on the spectrum of plotting and pantsing. A healthy relationship with both is necessary to successfully write a book, and to do so, you must first get it all down on paper, which means getting out of your own way.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can find her work on The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, Tiny Buddha and The Muse.

Continue to: Personal Development Skills Common Mistakes in Writing

See also: The Differences Between UK and US English Beating Writers Block Know Your Audience

The Write Practice

How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills and How to Build Them

by J. D. Edwin | 0 comments

Do you want to write a novel but are unsure how to write good fiction? Let's look at the skills you need to do it well. 

writing book skills

Writing good fiction takes time and practice. There's no way around it.

However, if you're looking for some specific and valuable writing skills that you should concentrate on improving, this post is for you.

Here, learn the four foundational writing skills that will make you a better fiction writer, with practical tips to better your writing craft.

This article is an excerpt from J. Danforth's new book The Write Fast System . The book teaches writers how to write a fast first draft—in six weeks. 

The Write Fast System: The Steps to Writing Your Best Book Faster

Once Upon a Time, I Didn't Know What Was Wrong With My Book

I have personal experience with moving too fast.

A number of years ago (almost ten years now; my how time flies), I finished writing my first novel. I had a vague premise, did no planning, and just dove in and wrote it. I pantsed a 150K word novel, a few pages at a time, over a period of three years. When it was done, I went through the laborious steps of professional editing and self-publishing, and then put it out into the world.

It sold eleven copies to friends and family.

I didn’t do much to promote it and it sank like a stone into the obscurity of the internet. A big part of this was that I didn’t know how to properly market a book back then, but there was another, deeper reason that I didn’t promote this book.

It wasn’t good.

For a first attempt, I suppose it wasn’t terrible. But even back then, reveling in having published a book, I had the nagging doubt in the back of my mind. And at the end of the day, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for support for a book that I didn’t believe was good. How could I ask other people to believe in a book that I didn’t believe in myself?

Back then, I didn’t understand why my book wasn’t good.

To recognize a book lacking in quality was one thing, but to fix it was another. When I tried to pinpoint how to improve it, or even identify what exactly was wrong, I turned up blank. And so, the book never went anywhere.

However, now a decade older and wiser, I know what was wrong.

4 Problems With Books That Aren't Good

My book was plagued by four major problems.

1. Terrible Structure

The book had a terrible structure due to lack of planning. It dragged in some places and covered too much too fast at others. I didn't advance plot in a way that made sense.

I was so occupied with filling a blank page that I never thought about structure. This was a huge problem.

2. Too Many Characters, Not Enough Development

The book had too many characters and not enough development.

While I was truly proud of a few of the characters I created, there were also some who didn’t serve adequate purpose in furthering the story.

Rather than fixing the plot, I dealt with difficult areas by simply sticking another character in it.

3. Too Much Description

Compared to other aspects of writing, I’m good at description. However, I overused it in this book.

I described details down to the minute. Unnecessary details, and I spent far too much time setting up scenes that only got used for a few short moments.

So while my descriptions were written well, they were used poorly and took away from the story rather than enriching it.

4. Needless Dialogue

My characters talked a lot. Correction—my characters talked a lot without saying very much. There were conversations that accomplished nothing or led nowhere.

Do you know what that’s called? It’s called “boring.”

A book with characters who talk in a boring manner is a boring book. Seriously, no one cares what they had for breakfast that day or what was on the radio on their way to work.

Move on with the story already.

How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills

I’m far from the first person to have these aforementioned problems.

In fact, these are some of the most common problems with novels and short stories that “just don’t work.”

When you’re a new writer starting out, figuring out exactly why your book isn’t working can be a confusing and difficult task.

However, when you understand the four foundational skills of writing, you can not only figure out why your story isn’t living up to its potential, but also understand how to change what's holding it back.

The four foundational skills needed to write good fiction are:

1. Strong Structure

I'm sure you’ve heard this word a lot, and this isn’t the post to go into detail about structure. But to put it simply, structure is how the story progresses and how its events are organized. Great fiction has great story structure. Look at any award-winning bestseller or just an all-around good story, and you will see strong structure.

Structure is where you decide what starts the story, what plot points lead the protagonist to make the decisions they do, what occurs that drives the characters, and what ultimately leads up to the climax where everything comes to a head.

To get used to working with structure, it's important to get into the habit of thinking of a book idea in terms of structure, even before starting a first draft.

When a story idea occurs to you, instead of letting it sit as a vague concept (e.g. MC goes on an adventure), try to divide it into the key components that would make up a story—why does MC go on this adventure? What prevents this adventure from going well? What is the goal of the adventure? How does MC change for the better or worse after this adventure? That will help you sketch out the character arc.

Key components in a story's structure also contain the story's main scenes, which should turn on the driving Value for the story's plot type. In most stories, there are fourteen to twenty main scenes in a plot, and at The Write Practice, there are six main plot types that turn on different Values to consider:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for Writers

Make this part of your writing process and think about what happens in your story step-by-step. Learning to think of an idea in terms of structure will help you get a better look of your whole book right off the bat.

If your story isn’t working from a structural standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Is there an important piece of the structure missing?
  • Have I looked at the story and felt satisfied that it makes sense as a whole?
  • Do the events of the story proceed logically and give adequate reason for the characters doing what they do?

For further reference on structure, visit the following articles:

  • Six Elements of Plot
  • Three Act Structure

2. Develop Characters and Emotions

Your story, at the end of the day, is about someone.

There aren’t a lot of stories out there that aren’t about a character or a cast of characters. But characters are tricky. You need a cast just big enough that every necessary role in the story is filled, but not so many that you fling characters around like a box of spilled beans, so many that readers can't keep character names straight.

In addition to that, your characters need to be distinguishable from each other, having unique reactions and emotions. If your readers can’t tell your characters apart, then it’s not going to make for a very fun read.

A character often comes to mind as an image and a name. But the fact is, a character, main character or otherwise, is so much more than that.

When you imagine a character, try to think beyond the who and focus more on the why of this person—this delves into character motivation.

Why do they do what they do? What in their life has brought them to this point? They're more than just a “happy person” or a “miserable miser.” What makes this character happy or miserable?

When someone wants to know how your day was, you might say “good” or “bad,” and proceed to follow up what's good or bad about it.

A conversation with your character to get to know them is the same. Ask them real question and listen to their answers to write richer characters.

You might be surprised at just how deep and unique they are.

If your story isn’t working from a character standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Is every character in the story absolutely necessary? Can some of them be combined?
  • Does every action taken by your character move the story forward? If not, they should probably be doing something else, or that part should simply be skipped.
  • Does the way each character reacts to major events reflect who they are as a person? Why do they react this way and are the readers aware of the reason?

For further references on writing characters, visit the following posts:

  • Character Development
  • Sympathetic Character
  • How to Write a Villain

3. Description and Setting

Description provides the visual for your story. Anyone can tell you what something looks like, but using description correctly is actually quite difficult.

It’s important to be aware of what needs to be described and what doesn’t. An object important to the plot may deserve a page of description, but a passerby on the street who isn’t important to the story does not. 

The other part of this is that when you go about describing a setting, every component you mention should have some significance to the story. It's not merely about how much description you need to give something important, but also how much you focus on individual parts of it as well.

This principle, quoted frequently in writing courses, is known as Chekhov's Gun, which states that every element in a story must be necessary.

As Chekhov says:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.”

If your story isn’t working from a description standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Have I adequately described all the important objects and settings in the story? Can my readers visualize these things easily?
  • Have I overdescribed things that don’t need to be described?
  • Are my descriptions interesting? Have I used too many old cliches?

For further reference on description, visit the following articles:

  • Immerse Your Reader in the Setting
  • World Building Tip
  • The Key to Writing Descriptions

4. Dialogue

There is nothing more active in a story than talking. Dialogue and interaction between characters brings the reader into the situation and gets them involved. But boring, unnecessary dialogue pulls them out just as quickly.

No one wants to read two characters talking about nothing. Dialogue showcases your characters’ personality as well, and bad dialogue means bad characters, no matter how pretty their “golden hair” and “emerald eyes” are.

A useful habit to get into when writing scenes with dialogue is to set a goal for the scene. Where do your characters start talking and where do you want them to end up? How can you pair action with dialogue?

Is the goal of the conversation to discuss a problem and reach a solution? Maybe the goal is to show how much two characters love each other? Is it for the readers to understand a particular aspect of their personality and situation?

Once you understand where you want your characters to end up after the conversation is over, you'll have a much better idea of what needs (and doesn't need) to be said.

If your story isn’t working from a dialogue standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Do my characters talk too much? Does every word they say either move the plot forward or show something about the character?
  • Do my characters use too many words to get to their point? Sometimes the few words they say, the more impactful their language.
  • Do the things my characters say reflect their personality? Is it accurate to their back story and motivation? Consistency is key.

For further reference on description, visit the following posts:

  • Writing Brilliant Dialogue
  • Dialogue Tags
  • A Critical Don't for Writing Dialogue

4 Ways to Strengthen Your Foundational Fiction Writing Skills

Now that we’ve identified the skills necessary to make a story work, how does one actually go about getting better at these skills? It may seem overwhelming at first, but in reality, it doesn’t take more than a consistent investment of time.

When I set out to improve my writing skills a few years ago, it felt like a terribly daunting task. Get better at writing? How on Earth do I accomplish that?

In the end, it didn’t end up taking very much time at all. In fact, within three years of starting to work on my writing skills, I had written another book. A better book. A book with a tight structure, well-rounded characters, far improved dialogue, and just the right amount of descriptions.

A book I can be proud of and stand behind, and actually have enough confidence in to promote. It's called Headspace (and it's available now !).

Not only does building foundational skills improve your writing, it helps with revising and self-editing as well. So how do you strengthen your skills?

1. Read books on writing

There are a lot of books about writing. But I am specifically referring, in this case, to books that focus on these four skill areas.

Look for books written by established fiction authors. These are the people who speak from experience and give practical, usable advice.

Some people don't believe writing can be taught. To those people, I ask:

Would you fix a car without first consulting a manual or taking a class?

Or put together a shelf without instructions?

Would you practice law without learning about the laws first?

Books on writing skills offer you the building blocks you need to create your story, and like building a house, you can’t put up the frame without a solid foundation.

For more on how to read productively as a writer, check out this post on what you should read .

2. Read fiction analytically

We all love to read. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be writers. However, reading to learn and reading for pleasure are two entirely different focuses.

Most of the time, we read fiction to get lost in the story, to become completely immersed and forget that what we’re doing is looking at words on paper. Many of us like to relax with Harry Potter or chew our nails while reading Stephen King .

But to read analytically, we must fight that impulse. It's hard work, but well worth it.

Rather than getting lost, we need to be aware throughout the story and look at it from an objective point of view.

As you read to analyze and learn, try a few different strategies.

6 Ways to Read Analytically (and Learn to Write Better)

  • Make note of things you like about the book and try to determine why you like them and how you can replicate the same effect in your own book.
  • Make note of things you didn’t like, determine why you didn’t like them, and decide how you can avoid these things in your book.
  • Observe the order of events and how they lead up to the whole.
  • Take note of descriptions that are vivid and effective. It may even be useful to copy these into a list somewhere for future reference.
  • Dissect the book and see how it fulfills each part of the storytelling structure.

3. Write short stories

Short stories are incredibly important. A lot of writers who are used to writing long pieces have a hard time with short stories. Trust me, I used to be one of these people.

But short stories have enormous benefits. Here are three reasons they're fantastic practice for writers:

  • They contain all the elements of structure and allow you to see them all at once in the space of only a few pages.
  • They are a smaller commitment and less daunting to finish..
  • Every word counts in short stories, which is incredibly helpful when you want to practice keeping your writing tight.

Try to make writing short stories a part of your writing life. If nothing else, sharing your short stories is a great (free!) offer to get readers interested in subscribing to your email list.

When you’re not sure what to write, write a short story, or even flash fiction, which is a very short story, as short as just a few words.

Short stories keep the gears turning and your skills fresh. The more short stories you write, the better your skills will be for writing books.

4. Write books

Books. Plural.

The reason I say this is because many writers have this dream of writing a book. There is a tendency to view this book in your head as the end all, be all.

But the reality, unfortunately, is that your first book is not likely to be good, and that’s not your fault.

How many people do you know who do a task perfectly their first time?

The thing is, when you write a subpar book, it’s easy to get discouraged. It can feel like you took a major shot at your dream and it just didn’t pan out. This isn’t true.

The first book is only that—the first book.

Don’t think of it as your one shot, but only your first step. Your first book didn’t turn out well? Shelve it and write another one. Maybe the same one from a different angle, maybe a new one just for fun.

The more books you write, the better you’ll get at writing them. Not only that, you will find that the second book is easier to write, because I promise you, you will have learned a lot from that first book on your shelf.

How to Write Good Fiction: Return to the Basics

Writers who spend time strengthening their foundational skills, especially the four foundational skills mentioned in this post, have unlimited potential.

Often, writers underestimate the need to practice the basics. And because of this, they find themselves stuck in the same weaker areas of their books, wondering how to write good fiction.

Fiction writing doesn't need to be complicated, even if writing itself is a life-long craft.

When you focus on your fiction basics including structure, characters and emotions, description and setting, and dialogue, your stories will only get better.

Never underestimate the value of practicing these foundational fiction writing skills. Over time, you'll see a great difference in your work, and likely, the readers reviewing your stories.

What writing skills do you think teach how to write good fiction? Let us know in the comments .

As you continue to work on the book idea that you're drafting alongside this series, look at the most recent scene you wrote.

Now, go back and review the four foundational fiction writing skills in this post. Which of these skillsets needs the most work?

For fifteen minutes , pull out a specific area in your story's scene and use the practical writing tips in this post to revise it.

When you're done, read it out loud. How does it sound? Better than the original? I hope so!

Don't forget to share your work in the Pro Practice Workshop  for feedback, and be sure to leave feedback for three other writers, too!

' src=

J. D. Edwin

J. D. Edwin is a daydreamer and writer of fiction both long and short, usually in soft sci-fi or urban fantasy. Sign up for her newsletter for free articles on the writer life and updates on her novel, find her on Facebook and Twitter ( @JDEdwinAuthor ), or read one of her many short stories on Short Fiction Break literary magazine .

The Best Books for Writers with stack of books

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts :

Popular Resources

Book Writing Tips & Guides Creativity & Inspiration Tips Writing Prompts Grammar & Vocab Resources Best Book Writing Software ProWritingAid Review Writing Teacher Resources Publisher Rocket Review Scrivener Review Gifts for Writers

Books By Our Writers

Crowdsourcing Paris: Memoirs of a Paris Adventure

You've got it! Just us where to send your guide.

Enter your email to get our free 10-step guide to becoming a writer.

You've got it! Just us where to send your book.

Enter your first name and email to get our free book, 14 Prompts.

Want to Get Published?

Enter your email to get our free interactive checklist to writing and publishing a book.

When You Write

10 Best Books To Improve Your Writing Skills

Although writing skills can be sharpened and although writing comes naturally for most people, good writing skills have to be learned.

Some writers become good by consistently writing and learning from mistakes. However, not all of us are going to become good writers without insights from established writers.

If you want to sharpen your writing skills, you need to supplement that consistent writing with reading.

So, here are the 10 best books you can use to improve your writing. I have listed different books for different types of writers, and I guarantee you will find a book that will improve your writing skills.

For example, if you’re a creative writer, Stein on Writing by Sol Stein might be ideal for you, and if you’re a nonfiction writer, On Writing by William Zinsser is probably ideal for you.

Let’s get started.

The Best 10 Books That Will Improve Your Writing

Stein on writing by sol stein.

Best for creative writers

Click For Latest Price

Sol Stein was a man who knew the publishing world inside out and a literary legend who worked with countless other legends, including James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, and David Frost, among others.

Stein On Writing isn’t an ordinary book, it’s not a book made by someone who is just after a quick buck. This is a book full of wisdom and practical tips for writers at every level.

To describe the books using Stein’s own words, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions–how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Best for fiction writers

Written by the king of horror, this is a book you pick up when you want to perfect your art as a fiction writer.

This is another literary great using his experiences, habits, and convictions to light your way to becoming a successful fiction writer.

In this part-memoir, part-guidebook, King details “a practical view of the writer’s craft” and discusses the basic/must-have tools of the wordsmith trade. King wraps the tips and advice in his childhood memories, his time as a budding writer, and the accident that almost took his life in 1999.

You have to read it, and while I can specifically recommend it for aspiring writers, I also have to say that it’s an empowering book for writers at every level of this trade.

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

Best writing philosophy 

If you want to teach something, originality is key, and that’s what I like about Anne Lamott. If you don’t know how the title relates to writing, you will by the time you finish reading this original and effective opening paragraph:

“Thirty years ago, my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Anne Lamott shows us that although we have to take our work seriously, we don’t have to inflict depression and pain on ourselves by trying to be perfect.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Best for aspiring writers

Zen in the Art of Writing explores the creative process behind some of the most famous works of literature, including The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and more.

Zen in the Art of Writing is one of the most influential books for a reason. It’s not just because it was written by a great author, but also because it is impactful.

In this book, Bradbury discusses his own experiences of writing and gives insights into the art of storytelling.

The advice from Bradbury is simple and unique, “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me… I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now it’s your turn. Jump!”

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Best for non-fiction

William Zinsser was everything that every nonfiction writer aspires to be. He was an experienced journalist, editor, teacher, and literary critic, among other things.   

In the book, William Zinsser offers advice on how to write concisely, persuasively, and effectively.

Whether you write about travel, business, sports, science and technology, memoirs, or art, this is an indispensable guide to writing well.

Not only will the book show you how to organize your thoughts and improve your grammar and spelling, but it will also teach you how to communicate your ideas more powerfully than you have before.

The Glamour of Grammar by Roy Peter Clark

Best for non-native English writers

Grammar plays a vital role in writing. It helps writers communicate effectively with their readers.

In some cases, bad grammar is a sign of unprofessionalism and hints of quackery.

This book is not something your teacher will use to teach grammar, but I can assure you that it’s ten times better than most academic books.

Peter Clark uses short but effective chapters to divulge the secrets that will surely improve your mastery of the Queen’s language, teaching his reader how to communicate effectively in any situation.

The book covers grammar rules, vocabulary, pronunciation, sentence structure, punctuation, and much more.

This is the book for every writing student—this is the book you need to know to make yourself understood every time you write.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Best for Expository Writers

In this book, bestselling author and linguistics professor Steven Pinker tackles one of the biggest challenges facing today’s writers—the problem of clarity and style.

Pinker uses “insights from the sciences of language and mind” to explain why so much bad writing occurs, then provides readers with tools to avoid it.

With his trademark wit and insight, Pinker demystifies grammar, talks about how the curse of knowledge affects our writing, shows us why we should care about each word and phrase, and tells us to look to the classic style for inspiration.

The Elements Of Style by William Strunk And E. B. White

Best for New creative writers

For creative writers, your imagination and the story are as good as your English. You cannot be a good creative writer without concise English, grammatical structure, and error-free paragraphs.

This book is only about 70 pages long, but, unlike its size, the impact that it will have on your writing is great.

And you won’t be the first beneficiary either. With over 10 million copies sold since 1918, there have been many testimonies of the book’s simple but effective tips.

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

Best for content creators & bloggers

Jeff Goins is a bestselling author, speaker, blogger, and entrepreneur, among other things. Jeff has managed to turn his writing talent into a money-making career, and he is one of the new-age writers that you have to listen to if you want a successful writing career.

In this book, Goins uses his own story and his journey to becoming a professional writer to provide insights on how to improve writing, get published, turn yourself into a brand, and take charge of your work.

To be all these things, Goins recommends being a writer first, and his advice is raw:

“It’s time to kill the excuses and start writing. Time to become a writer again. Not a marketer or an entrepreneur. Not a blogger or businessperson. A writer. A real one.”

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Best for Novelists and Storytellers

It doesn’t matter how thick your book is or how good your grammar is if your story isn’t rich, logical, and engrossing.

This book is a goldmine for anyone who wants to become the best in the science or art of storytelling.

In Story Genius, Lisa Cron shares the techniques that she has discovered and developed throughout her career. She takes you through the entire novel creation process—from coming up with the story’s idea to a finalized draft.

I did not find a lot of content on brain science as suggested by the title, but I did find tips that helped me rediscover aspects of the writing process, and it was describing the mechanics of my own story to me.

The 6 Major Attributes You Need to Develop as a Writer

Passion has to be present in everything you do. Passion is something that cannot be taught. Some people get it naturally, and others have to work hard to develop their passion.

If you want to become a writer, then you need to develop a passion for writing. When you write about what you love, you’ll find yourself doing it over and over again. 

So you don’t always have to worry about ideas or lack of interest because you love what you are writing about.

2. Imagination

Imagination is what makes the stories better; your ability to create something out of nothing means there will be plenty of stories or topics to write about.

We use imagination to make sense of things we don’t understand, solve problems, learn about ourselves, and connect with others. But when it comes to writing, imagination isn’t just useful, it’s necessary. Without it, there are no stories to tell.

In writing, imagination is the first step toward developing the story or any other content. You need to imagine the content before you can actually write it. In fact, if you can’t imagine the content, your draft won’t get very far.

3. Persistence

Persistence is the third major attribute you need to develop as a writer. Writing takes time and effort. There’s no way around it.

But persistence means sticking with it even when things get tough. Writing every day, regardless of whether you want to or not, will separate you from the rest by a mile. 

So, keep going until you’ve finished your first draft.

4. Patience

Patience is the third major attribute you need to build as a writer, and it’s a bit similar to the previous one. Writing requires patience. You’ll spend hours upon hours drafting and editing.

Don’t give up early. Keep working on your manuscript until you’re happy with it.

5. Grammar skills

I don’t need to say this because we all know that grammar skills are the foundation of writing.

Grammar skills act like guidelines that help writers develop their own style and voice. If you want to become a great writer, then you need to learn how to use these rules correctly and effectively.

6. Reading & research skills

Research skills are essential in any writer’s toolbox. You need them to understand what you are writing about. To develop these skills, you need to read widely, write down ideas, ask questions, and travel.

Will Reading Books Improve My Writing?

Reading books is great for improving your writing skills. If you read about different topics, you will be able to think about what you want to say from different angles. The more you read, the easier it becomes for you to express yourself through writing.

However, not all books on writing will help you become a better writer. Some books won’t help you improve, not because they’re badly written or have false teachings, but because the books are designed for different writers in different genres and levels.

Some books focus on grammar rules, others on how to write better stories, and some of the other books listed in this article focus on teaching the structure of formal nonfiction writing.

Plus, there are beginner-level books, books for intermediate levels, and others for experienced writers.

Final Words

These ten books are surely going to improve your writing skills. But, the most important thing to know about writing well is that it takes practice and persistence.

If you want to write well, a book such as our top pick Stein on Writing by Sol Stein will get you on the right track, but remember, you must not only read but write often. Write your first drafts quickly. Don’t worry too much about grammar or spelling—you’ll fix those later.

And don’t try to impress people with your vocabulary. They won’t care. What they will appreciate is that you took the time to understand what you were trying to say.

Recommended Reading...

Blind date with a book ideas: unique ways to discover your next favorite read, most popular book genres: a comprehensive guide, complete list of dr seuss books in order of publication, which book uses exactly 50 different words.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

© 2024 When You Write

Library Home

Writing for Success

(52 reviews)

writing book skills

Copyright Year: 2015

ISBN 13: 9781946135285

Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Tracy Peterson, Adjunct Writing Instructor, Southwestern Oregon Community College on 8/16/23

Index is highly comprehensive. It includes the title of chapters as well as each subsection that can be linked directly from the index to the page within the document itself. Chapters include all major areas of study within my WR90 course. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

Index is highly comprehensive. It includes the title of chapters as well as each subsection that can be linked directly from the index to the page within the document itself. Chapters include all major areas of study within my WR90 course.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

Information is accurate and well thought out. It would be great to have PDFs of exercises given in the book. As it is, I’m not sure how usable the exercises are in the digital only format. I do, however, appreciate the focus on sentence skills. These are greatly needed among my Wr 090 students.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Content is pretty timeless, and I don’t believe updates will need to be made often.

Clarity rating: 4

Text is clear, though perhaps a bit hard to access for many of my Writing 090 students. Terms such as “Rhetorical Modes”, for example, would not be understood. Simpler language would be more useful in a lower-level course. The occasional flowchart is useful; I would love to see more diagrams and/or images and less heavy text. While examples are given (generally one or two per concept), more would always be helpful.

Consistency rating: 5

The text is very consistent with the way ideas are presented, giving tips and highlights, key factors, examples, exercises, learning objectives, etc. All of these things are reproduced in each section and within each chapter in the same way, making them easy to find and identify.

Modularity rating: 5

Chapters may be easily separated and rearranged according to the needs of the instructor. Subsections within each chapter are able to be completed independently.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The organization of the text is logical and rational. It begins with an introduction to writing, moves on to sentence skills, refining writing technique, the writing process, writing an essay, different rhetorical modes of essay writing, research and citations, presentations, and example essays.

Interface rating: 3

Title page could be a little more appealing. There are quite a lot of formatting issues, large oversized text boxes with writing in bottom quarter only throughout the entire text (Ex: pg 5), strange front sizes, and too much space on page (Ex: pg 72).

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

The text contains no grammatical errors. It was well worded and well written.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

The text is pretty neutral. I would appreciate bringing in a little more cultural relevance into the text: images of multi-racial students, etc. However, the text does includes a section for English Language Learners which I greatly appreciate. These subsections could be added throughout the course, or done as a single unit.

Overall it is a well-made text. I personally would rather see a more project based textbook, but not finding any like that, I think this text creates a good jumping off point, from which the instructor can create and deliver more project based assignments.

Reviewed by Tonya Rickman, Adjunct Instructor English Department, Old Dominion University on 7/25/23

The content presented in this book is quite appropriate for college students, especially those students who are new to college and/or struggling with the rigors of reading and writing assignments required at the post-secondary level. The text is... read more

The content presented in this book is quite appropriate for college students, especially those students who are new to college and/or struggling with the rigors of reading and writing assignments required at the post-secondary level. The text is comprehensive as it encompasses a wide range of topics and strategies related to reading, writing, and academic work at the post-secondary level, making it a valuable resource for students and instructors alike. There is a glossary that includes key terminology – much of the language included in the book is straightforward (one does not need an extensive knowledge of English terminology to understand this book).

The text appears to be error free. There were a few examples provided in the grammar section (beginning on page 51), where the author discusses editing fragments that begin with prepositions. In those examples there appears to be a word repeated (e.g., when, When). However, it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that the repeated word “when” is not a typo, but it’s the format used to demonstrate a common error.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Even though the text was published in 2015 the information is still relevant and aligned with most of the reading and writing learning outcomes expected in a freshman and/or sophomore English course as well as other disciplines. Based on the current cultural climate in academia and shifting cultural norms in the broader society, the author might update examples in the book to convey a bit more of a feel of cultural inclusivity as well as a broader sense of technological advances (AI). That said, the systematic academic styles and simplistic tone certainly puts the reader at ease, especially when reading grammar rules that students might find confusing when presented in a more complex resource. Additionally, the exercises used to provide the reader with practice (i.e., Writing at Work) are not only a thoughtful way to help the reader make connections with the content of the text, but also useful in expanding the reader’s thinking beyond the use of a particular skill for academic purpose to a real-world application (i.e., the workplace).

Clarity rating: 5

Readers of this book have likely encountered the vast majority of terms used in the book at other times throughout their time in academia. The author actually described grammar and punctuation in a way that is understandable (i.e., short descriptions, rudimentary examples).

The format pretty much remains the same throughout the text – the author consistently articulates learning objectives, concepts, strategies, practice, and key takeaways. Additionally, visuals and links to external resources are regularly available to aid readers in gaining a deeper understanding of ideas. There is a logical progression of ideas as the reader moves forward in the text. For example, the reader is introduced to strategies for time management and study skills before learning strategies for conducting research.

Absolutely, this text can be read in sequential order (i.e., chapter one, two, three…), or the reader could refer to any chapter of interest based on his/her learning needs. As an English instructor, who has directed students to a variety of grammar resources online, I could see the benefit of directing students to a page in this text instead of several different online resources. Based on the quality of content in this text, it’s an efficient and effective way put a useful resource in the hands of students.

The sequential order of topics in the text is sensible – the structure enables the reader to know what’s coming next. The concepts in the text become increasingly complex as the reader progresses through each section of the text. The end of the text gives the reader the opportunity to apply understanding of concepts discussed earlier in the text. The progression in the complexity of skills is most notable in the steps for completion of a research paper – here the reader is challenged to apply several skills discussed earlier in the text (e.g., identifying the scope and sequence, considering steps in writing process, managing time).

Interface rating: 4

The majority of hypertext links are useful in navigating to other sections of the text and many of the links to external sources are still active (e.g., Library of Congress Subject Headings link). After visiting the external website, the reader is able to easily navigate back to the original text. The actual images (e.g., charts and tables) in the text are appropriately displayed – the color, spacing, and fonts are visually pleasing.

A huge part of the text is dedicated to the use of grammar – there don’t seem to be issues with grammar.

The text feels a bit culturally neutral - most of the examples are pretty generic. The reader likely feels the author is most concerned with providing examples for the purpose of highlighting development of essential skills that are part of the reading and writing process. For example, while there are multiple examples that spotlight contemporary issues (e.g., mortgage crisis, low-carb diets), the style and tone of writing feel appropriate for an academic text – you feel the examples are provide for academic purposes not to convey any views or positions on any of the issues.

I would recommend this book to English teachers for use with secondary and post-secondary students.

Reviewed by Alicia Andre, Faculty, Century College on 3/8/23

Writing for Success is a good text for an intro-college writing and grammar text. There are 15 chapters, and each chapter is well-organized and includes some sample essays and grammar exercises. What I like about this text, is that you can pick... read more

Writing for Success is a good text for an intro-college writing and grammar text. There are 15 chapters, and each chapter is well-organized and includes some sample essays and grammar exercises. What I like about this text, is that you can pick which topics will fit your course design. The beginning of the book has a comparison/contrast on the expectations of high school and college. This is a good way to start a college composition course because students often do not understand the demands of college writing. It also starts with reading strategies, and this is also helpful because many students today do not read carefully, and this can be a problem when they start to write a paper that asks them to analyze a reading. There is a lot to pick and choose from in this 600-page book.

The authors did an excellent job in this area as there were not any errors that I could see.

The chapters are relevant for any college composition course. The only concern is that the MLA/APA chapter may need to be updated. It might be a good idea to have a link to the Purdue Owl English web page in this chapter as the rules of MLA and APA often change over the years. Some of the readings and links might need to be updated as well.

I thought the organization and content were clear and easy to follow. I like that the “objectives” are included at the top of each chapter as this can be a nice way to see how course objectives link to the textbook chapters. Also, there are “tips” to help learners along the way.

There is clear consistency and it is easy to follow. The terminology seems accurate as well.

The modules are comprehensive and topics that I use in my college composition courses. The writing text that I am using now, has these topics embedded in units, but this text has similar topics in separate chapters which can be easy for the instructor and the student to locate. For instance, if I want to go over “understanding purpose in writing”, I can find information in the introduction. If I want to go over sentence boundaries, I can go to Chapter 2 or Chapter 6 depending on which one is a better way to explain the importance of using cohesive devices in writing. There is also a chapter on study skills that I would use at the start of the semester.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

I suppose it isn’t easy to decide which chapter should go first to last. I looked at the organization of chapters and I would say Chapter 8 on “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin” should be after “Chapter 1: Introduction to Writing”, but since many teachers will simply assign certain chapters at different times, this isn’t a big problem. I like that the textbook included a chapter specifically designed for English Language Learners (ELL) since that is my subject area.

I think it is good, but I would like to see more visuals like graphs, pictures, and sample essays with edits. There are some good aspects though as the text has boxed information with samples. For instance, in the chapter on punctuation, the boxed information shows how the punctuation is used in the sentence. The text also includes some practice exercises in “blue” boxes. This is helpful because I can scan for those exercises and have students do those as homework. One concern I have is that some of the sample essays (i.e., Page 235) have small print and is difficult to read.

No errors that I can tell.

I think for the most part it is good in terms of being inclusive. The readings in the unit on narration included readings from Sandra Cisneros and Sherman Alexie. Some of the readings might include some sensitive topics related to race and abortion that could be problematic. However, I think that if I use this textbook, I can just pick and choose which topic best fits my students' needs.

I think this is an excellent book for a college composition course.

Reviewed by Jiale Hu, Assistant Professor|Director of Research and Global Outreach, Virginia Commonwealth University on 8/10/22

It is a comprehensive book introducing writing skills. This book covers all the necessary writing basics, from words, sentences, and paragraphs to the whole essay. The authors also provide detailed instructions on the steps of writing. read more

It is a comprehensive book introducing writing skills. This book covers all the necessary writing basics, from words, sentences, and paragraphs to the whole essay. The authors also provide detailed instructions on the steps of writing.

Although some references need to be updated, the contents are accurate. The book provides error-free and unbiased content on writing.

This book is very helpful for students or even junior faculty who want to improve their writing skills.

As it is a book introducing academic writing skills, the authors did a fantastic job of writing this book in a clear way.

I appreciate that the authors structure all the chapters and sections in a consistent way. It makes reading and navigation more efficiently.

The book uses multiple strategies to break the contents into smaller reading sections. There are no enormous blocks of text without subheadings.

The contents of this book are well organized. Each chapter has multiple subchapters. Each subchapter has multiple sections to present the contents and topics in a logical, clear fashion. The authors have learning objectives at the beginning of each subchapter and key takeaways at the end of each subchapter. Major headings and subheadings are clear. All the further explanations or clarifications and examples or exercises have been put in the boxes for easy navigation.

Interface rating: 5

This book provides five formats, including online, pdf, ebook, XML, and ODF. Each format looks great! I did not experience any interface issues. I did not find any navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse readers.

After I read the book thoroughly, I did not notice any grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The book has a chapter for English language learners. This is greatly appreciated. I did not see any text culturally insensitive or offensive. The essays in the final chapter also include a variety of examples.

My favorite chapter is Chapter 8: The Writing Process: How Do I Begin? This chapter provides detailed steps of the writing process: Prewriting, Outlining the structure of ideas, Writing a rough draft, Revising, and Editing. Especially in the chapter on outlining, the authors provide great examples showing different ways of organizing ideas and constructing outlines.

writing book skills

Reviewed by Seo Lee, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Superior on 8/21/21

comprehensive book to adopt effective writing strategies for college students read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

comprehensive book to adopt effective writing strategies for college students

it was very accurate and clear, such as the basics of vocabulary, paragraph development, and introduction of essay paper.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

since I do not have a lot of writing assignments for the class, this book is not relevant to my course work

this book is very easy to follow through the context of book, very organized that need to college students

Consistency rating: 4

very structured and well-organized content

Modularity rating: 4

Yes. it help to write essay paper, the learn the process of writing

well-organized content

easy to follow, introduce the basic elements of writing for college students

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

I do not see grammatical errors

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

did not involve the cultural contexts.

Reviewed by Pam Whitfield, English faculty, Rochester Community & Technical College on 12/21/20

Pretty accessible for students. Maybe a bit simple for freshman writing, but I would consider using it in a comp 101 course and supplementing with my own materials. I am most likely to use it for a “higher level” developmental writing... read more

Pretty accessible for students. Maybe a bit simple for freshman writing, but I would consider using it in a comp 101 course and supplementing with my own materials. I am most likely to use it for a “higher level” developmental writing course. Grammar comes first in the table of contents. That’s fine with me as it makes accessing those sections easy, but I would not teach these chapters chronologically. I would pick and choose, reordering chapters for my students to teach more holistically, so comp methodology has grammar embedded in it.

No glossary or index. This is a large omission and could be easily corrected: hire a grad student to do it as a summer project.

The content and examples are accurate overall. Ch 6 replaces persona/speaker/writer with tone in the rhetorical triangle. I find that reductionist or overly simplistic. But the chapter as a whole is superbly geared toward the dev ed writers I typically teach. I would use it in a class for students who missed the testing placement cut off for freshman composition.

I'd call its approach pretty classic in terms of comp pedagogy. It will not become obsolete in the near future. Updates should focus on new media and digital sources/examples.

Highly readable for students.

Yes, it's a text that provides a great overview but does not go deep into any one area or skill set. For ex, Chapter 5 for ELL students is just a start. Or perhaps it’s a jumping off place for teacher’s own pedagogy and materials. The slang and idioms lists are very short, for instance. They are just a starting point. This chapter could be an effective review for a competent ELL student or allow the instructor to assign one section/topic as needed to individual students.

I like the amount of sectioning; it reads in bite sized pieces for students. This is a long book—over 600 pages. It could be intimidating to dev ed and ELL students.

What helps make this text more organized and user friendly: key takeaways list at end of each chapter. charts and lists for quick reference by students. quick tips in text boxes. “writing at work” tips that help students connect the usefulness of what they’re learning in the classroom to the workplace.

There are a few poor design choices. For ex, student examples are displayed in italic font (as if the student were writing cursive). Italic font slows reading speed on the page and increases eye fatigue. Never put more than one sentence total into italics. The PDF version really needs a way to "tag" or jump to each chapter directly. Better yet, to jump to each section in the chapter by using a hyperlink or similar tool in the table of contents.

Everything I read was clean.

There is some variety. I would not term this a standout or obvious strength of the text.

I would test drive it for one semester in dev ed first, then consider adapting and supplementing it for my first year comp students.

Reviewed by Christian Aguiar, Asst Professor of English, The University of the District of Columbia on 12/21/20

This text provides extensive coverage of all of the content areas typically covered in first-year composition courses at community colleges. It includes chapters on paragraph structure, the writing process, rhetorical modes, research, MLA and APA... read more

This text provides extensive coverage of all of the content areas typically covered in first-year composition courses at community colleges. It includes chapters on paragraph structure, the writing process, rhetorical modes, research, MLA and APA documentation, sentence structure, punctuation, mechanics, revision, and even designing presentations. Individual chapters include check-in questions and, in most cases, suggested activities for students to complete as they read. There is also a selection of sample essays that follow the rhetorical modes. Finally, hyperlinks have been strategically placed to help students review important concepts by referring them back directly to the chapter where that concept was first introduced. This makes for a richly layered reading experience while also facilitating modular usage of the text.

The text generally follows the established approach to teaching writing, so its discussion of research writing, for example, includes sections on topic selection, planning, conducting research, organizing ideas, drafting and revising.

Wisely, the authors have avoided over-embellishing their work with examples that might become dated. Those examples critical to student learning tend to focus on general, enduring topics. Some of the suggested topics and activities may not age quite as well - for example, one activity asks students to complete an idea map to analyze the impact of “social networking,” which may already be a somewhat dated concept for students. Since the activities are clearly set apart in lightly-shaded boxes, it’s easy for users to update these activities as needed. It must be said that the included student examples are pretty generic; I’ve never used them.

In a nod to digital reading habits, the authors have kept paragraphs mercifully short - typically 2-3 sentences, rarely any more. Sub-headings are used judiciously. Each chapter section introduces learning objectives at the top of the page and “takeaways” at the bottom. The authors don’t attempt to over-simplify the writing styles, so the readability score is relatively high, in the 10th-12th grade or college range. This makes the text ideal for a first-year writing course, though it may prove somewhat challenging when used as part of development coursework, such as in a corequisite course.

The design of the text is clear and lucid. There are fifteen chapters, each divided into several sections covering individual topics. Each topic begins with clear learning objectives and concludes with one or more key points. All chapters feature built-in comprehension questions, short writing activities, and/or writing tips. The visual design is crisp; it makes use of white space and a consistent color palette to improve readability.

The organization of the text makes it very easy to assign a single chapter, or section of a chapter, at a time. Each section has its own URL that can be embedded in an LMS to bring students directly to the desired reading. The use of hyperlinks to refer back to ideas covered in “previous” chapters makes it easier to take the text out of order, as students are able to readily access concepts.

See consistency

The digital interface is clean, consistent, and easy to navigate. The text does not generally make use of images, though there are frequent tables, charts and organizers that read clearly on Chrome and Firefox.

In two years of teaching with the text, I have found no grammatical errors.

The text is culturally competent in the sense of being quite generic and inoffensive; it does not necessarily engage a range of experiences or voices. I haven't found this a problem because the text does not include any embedded readings - it is strictly focused on writing content, so I supplement it with short stories, essays, and films that I have selected. This makes the text readily adaptable to varied cultural contexts. The student sample essays included at the end of the text do embody a white, middle-class aesthetic, though: one describes baseball, “America’ pastime,” while another compares London and Washington, D.C.

I’ve used this book as a core text for my first-year writing course for two years, and I find it generally does everything the standard first-year writing textbook does with the added benefits of being clearer, more concise, editable and, of course, free. It is designed to support process- or modes-based courses, but it can also be easily used in smaller chunks to support other approaches to first-year writing.

Reviewed by Holly Armstrong, Instructor, Middlesex Community College on 6/30/20

Writing for Success thoroughly covers all aspects of writing. Beginning with the basics of vocabulary, the text progresses through word order, paragraph development, sentence variety and clarity, then moves on to beginning an essay through to... read more

Writing for Success thoroughly covers all aspects of writing. Beginning with the basics of vocabulary, the text progresses through word order, paragraph development, sentence variety and clarity, then moves on to beginning an essay through to research writing. For first year students, including English language learners, the textbook provides clear and thorough descriptions of the writing process and provides examples of completed essays for review as well.

The content of the text is accurate and error-free. While the text covers more topics than I would use in my Reading, Writing, and Reasoning course, the review of vocabulary development, word order, sentence variety, grammar, and paragraph writing are crucial for my students.

Instructional material in Writing for Success is up-to-date and not likely to go out of date since the focus is on the very basics of introductory writing through to essay formats.

Writing for Success is easy to read and appropriate for first year students. While lengthy, the overall review of vocabulary, word order, sentence writing, paragraph development, including help for English learners especially regarding word choice and sentence order, provide clear and concise information.

Tone used is consistent throughout the text. Examples and exercises for each covered topic are easily found and clearly labeled.

Writing for Success covers all aspects of reading and writing, while also incorporating grammar review, and providing help for English learners. While the text is long, instructors can pick relevant material to use and students have a resource that can be used as a reference tool for later courses as well.

Writing for Success follows a logical flow for introducing writing to first year students. The text has a detailed table of contents and each section is clearly labeled and easy to follow. However, there is no index or glossary as part of the text, and this feature is one that could be added for greater ease of use.

I read Writing for Success online and did not have any issues. I was able to navigate the text easily.

The text contained no grammatical errors.

The text was not culturally insensitive. Perhaps the readings included can be updated to include more relevant and timely topics.

Writing for Success is a thorough text encompassing all aspects of the writing process. For first year students, it provides a complete grammar review as well as clearly organized and detailed instruction for essay writing, including model essays. Throughout the text, clear and thorough explanations of concepts are given. Although the text contains limited images, it is well organized and easy to follow. While some students may not need such a thorough review before beginning essay writing, a text that can meet the needs of all learners in my introductory course is welcome.

Reviewed by Brenda Williams, Faculty, Lane Community College on 6/23/20

It is complete and accurate. It covers a lot of material. read more

It is complete and accurate. It covers a lot of material.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

No errors and it is unbiased.

It is very relevant. It will help college students adjust to the college environment and expectations.

The text is direct and clear. An easy read.

It is consistent throughout each chapter and easy to navigate.

It does cover alot of material but that could make it easier to break up into smaller assignments.

It flows and is organized. It can be taught in a different order though which can be helpful.

I had no issues. Things were easy to find and navigate.

I didn't find anything insensitive or offensive.

It was written well.

Reviewed by Dr. Deborah Bradford, Part-time Professor, Bridgewater State University on 6/11/20

This book is very complete, but does not have an index or glossary. It does have a Table of Contents. It might be the most extensive book I have encountered for the topics that are covered. read more

This book is very complete, but does not have an index or glossary. It does have a Table of Contents. It might be the most extensive book I have encountered for the topics that are covered.

This book is accurate and unbiased with no errors.

Writing for Success is timeless in its content. I don't see anything that would make it obsolete. If any updates were needed, I'm sure they could be made easily.

Writing for Success is very clearly written which is especially helpful for beginning writers. The examples given are also very clear followed by exercises that reinforce the material. I did not find any outstanding (in a negative way) technical terminology.

The text is very consistent regarding terminology and framework. One can expect to always find the same headings/subheadings in each chapter such as Learning Objectives, Exercises, Tips, Writing at Work, Key Takeaways, etc. My additional comments about organization (which is very close to the meaning of framework) are below.

Writing for Success is a huge book that covers just about everything a professor would want for any level writer. There really is no way the book could or should be used in its entirety during one semester. It definitely can be easily broken up and reorganized into smaller sections according to what is needed at different points in the semester.

This book is very well-organized. When one becomes familiar with how the material is presented after the first chapter or so, it is comforting to see this same format followed throughout, making the information easier to read and comprehend. The headings and subheadings are clearly marked and bolded and the information that is in a box (Learning Objectives, Tips, etc.) in one chapter is consistently in a box in the other chapters. However, chapters 2-5 (or at least chapters 2-3) might be better placed nearer the end of the book, after the rhetorical mode essay examples or in an appendix. After reading chapter 1, I was surprised to suddenly be thrust into chapters on grammar and punctuation when I would have preferred continuing to read about the elements of writing that are discussed after chapter 5. However, the sequence of chapters can be changed according to the needs of the particular class (as noted in the Modularity section above).

I did not encounter any interface issues.

I did not find any grammatical errors.

I did not find the book to be culturally insensitive or offensive in any way.

This book is great and I would recommend it to any professor who is teaching a beginning or even intermediate writing course. I especially like the sections entitled Tips and Key Takeaways which serve as very helpful and concise information/reminders of what to keep in mind for good writing. I was so happy to also see the section entitled Writing at Work included, as I have not seen similar content in many writing books. It is so important to include, as I always want to have my students make a connection between their school work and the outside world, i.e. their real world professional work -- a connection that is sometimes difficult for them to make, especially for the traditional college-aged students.

Reviewed by Eileen Feldman, Instructor, Bunker Hill Community College on 6/4/20

This book presents traditional aspect of writing: grammar, sentence construction, paragraph development, essays, research. It raises the bar by adding chapters directed to novices transitioning into college, to English Language Learners, and to... read more

This book presents traditional aspect of writing: grammar, sentence construction, paragraph development, essays, research. It raises the bar by adding chapters directed to novices transitioning into college, to English Language Learners, and to making oral presentations. There is a Table of Contents but no index

The material and grammar/spelling showed no errors

The relevance is written for longevity. Contemporary technology is referred to and can be added to by interested readers. The topics suggested for writing exercises are timeless but could also be expanded by the Creative Commons agreement.

The text is clear in language, font, and format. There are so graphics , but charts and blue shading for tips help focus attention.

The framework of this book is consistent. Each chapter contains purpose statements, tips to help students, workplace writing situations, key takeaway summaries, and end of chapter quizzes. There are student paragraphs and essay to demonstrate each concept.

Each section can be separated and used as students' needs are assessed. The order of chapters can be changed at teacher's discretion.

The text is clear and logical. The entire Appendix of student sample essays of each rhetorical style appeared rather surprisingly and could be incorporated with those preceding sections.

There are no interface problems, but neither are there many charts or images.

THere are no glaring grammatical errors.

The topics suggested are of American interest and might not resonate with a variety of cultures in the class. Likewise the sample student essay might be intimidating or irrelevant to some readers.

The two outstanding contributions added to this rhetoric are1) the lengthy socioemotional introduction to college level work and challenges and 2)the concern with incorporation of these wkills into workplace environment.

Reviewed by Christy Moore, Associate Professor, Marian University on 3/27/20

The text is VERY comprehensive. I believe it would be difficult to get all the way through the text in one semester. It covers the most basic writing processes early and then eases the student into a more complex understanding of what he/she needs... read more

The text is VERY comprehensive. I believe it would be difficult to get all the way through the text in one semester. It covers the most basic writing processes early and then eases the student into a more complex understanding of what he/she needs to know to write effectively for the assignments normally given at the college level. The Key Takeaways sections and End of the Chapter exercises really provide teachers a way to continuously assess student understanding throughout the semester.

The content is accurate and all of the exercises that I tried, that are provided to test student understanding, were written correctly as well. Each section is very specific and accurately instructs on certain skills and topics essential for quality writing.

Based on the fact that this text covers English grammar and writing at an acceptable level for a college student, the material is very relevant and should remain that way quite easily. Any student that did not have the opportunity to have a strong grammar/writing class in high school will learn so much from the material provided in the text. As technology grows and changes, there may be a place for additions to different formats for student writing.

I believe the text to be clear, concise and to the point. All of the exercises provided throughout the text allow for students to check their own clarity and understanding of the material as well. The writing and grammar terminology used in the text is clear and specific in both definition and organization.

The consistency of the terminology and framework is more than adequate. One thing that this text provides that I think is essential for the student just entering college is predictability. All of the chapters follow a similar framework that can really provide much needed continuity for a student just getting started a college level reader and writer.

Depending on pre-assessment of students in the course, I believe that this text is set up for easy reorganization of material. There will be some sections that students should be able to test out of due to more than adequate prior knowledge. For those though that need a more step by step approach to topics, the content is divided into very manageable sections that will not be overwhelming to a novice to the writing process.

The structure of the text is logical and clear. The text is formatted in a way where an instructor can jump back and forth to meet the needs of specific students for the writing assignment at hand. I would like to see some writing assignments earlier in the text which could help incorporate a student's understanding of the grammar and mechanics that he/she just learned.

The book's interface had no issues. I navigated the chapters and sub-sections very easily and viewed many of the quality charts, graphs and examples provided throughout the text. I liked the bolded vocabulary terms and links provided that take you back and forth to chapters that supplement one another.

I found no grammatical errors.

I did not find the text to be culturally insensitive or offensive.

I wish all of the students that I have in my Reading and Writing in the Content Areas course would have the opportunity to utilize this book in an entry level writing class on campus. It would give me the peace of mind that they have all been introduced to the material that is essential to develop good writers and that they can move on to teach writing appropriately in their future secondary classrooms.

Reviewed by Joseph Amdahl, Adjunct, Chemeketa Community College on 5/21/19

This category might indicate one of the downsides of this particular textbook -- the text covers quite a bit of ground, coming in at a mere 645 pages. Having said that, a lot of the page includes examples, exercises, and their "Key Takeaways"... read more

This category might indicate one of the downsides of this particular textbook -- the text covers quite a bit of ground, coming in at a mere 645 pages. Having said that, a lot of the page includes examples, exercises, and their "Key Takeaways" section -- so the page count doesn't come across as overwhelming as it might seem. Overall, thorough/useful text that would work well for a composition course.

There were no glaring issues with the book regarding accuracy. Writing comes across as objective. A few minor aspects -- for example, the author writes: "A good paragraph contains three distinct components: a topic sentence, body, and concluding sentence." Would have liked more regarding paragraph transitions and implementation of both topic sentence and paragraph transition sentences for students. Overall, book seems accurate and with low bias.

The first half of the text will hold up well, -given that it covers less malleable material like grammar/usage/etc. The essay/writing exercises could be useful in the second half - though not totally inspiring. Given that MLA/APA format evolves/changes, the last section of the textbook will probably go out of date within the next few years.

The material in the textbook is fairly clear. One of the downsides of this text is how much ground is covered. Would probably be more clear if the book was split into two books -- one on grammar/usage and one on the writing process and the elements of an essay.

The text seems consistent regarding both terminology and framework.

Given the page count of this textbook, it might be difficult to cover this much material in a 10-week term. The "Key Takeaways" sections of the chapters were useful and a neat way to add clarity to the intention of each section. Again, given the white space on the page, the text doesn't come across as overwhelming -- though it could have been split into two books in order to add clarity. Would be easy for an instructor to assign sections here (one per week might be manageable).

The layout of the textbook makes sense. From the building blocks of language/grammar/usage to the writing process, essay assignments, editing, and finally formatting. Again, could probably split into two textbooks -- one that covers grammar/usage/format and one that covers the writing process & essay assignments.

The text has no glaring interface issues; however, a few of the pages had quite a bit of white space. For example, page 460 ends after a short paragraph, followed by mostly white space, and then some boxes containing information on pg. 461. Organization like this was probably an attempt to make the content as clear as possible.

There were no glaring grammatical errors.

I didn't notice anything offensive or culturally insensitive within the textbook.

This textbook would be useful to a range of students. The exercises, on a variety of grammar/usage topics, are clear and thorough. The one downside is just that this textbook covers quite a bit of ground.

Reviewed by Candace Hoes, Adjunct Lecturer, LAGCC on 5/17/19

The textbook begins at the basics of writing, such as grammar, word choice, and constructing sentences, and then builds to more complex concepts such as creating a thesis in a research paper. There are adequate stepping stones along the way, with... read more

The textbook begins at the basics of writing, such as grammar, word choice, and constructing sentences, and then builds to more complex concepts such as creating a thesis in a research paper. There are adequate stepping stones along the way, with examples of strong and weak theses that gradually build upon each other. I could see using this textbook for both an intro composition course and several building levels. There are examples of several types of essays both within the text itself and hyperlinked to outside websites.

The instructional matter of this textbook seems consistent with basic composition courses.

I wish that instead of links, the textbook provided a few examples of parenthetical citations of commonly used types of sources. I can see the advantage to providing links is that it more or less places the burden on those websites to stay up to date with the MLA's stipulations instead of updating the textbook itself. However, in my experience, students don't always follow links and would probably ask the professor directly instead. The websites that are linked, such as Purdue Owl, are very robust, but beginning composition students have difficulty navigating those websites to find their answers.

This textbook avoids jargon when explaining concepts and breaks down concepts that can easily confuse a beginning composition student, such as the main idea versus a controlling idea.

This textbook uses the same terminology throughout.

The textbook is highly modular. For example, in my composition course, I would assign brief, five-minute presentations to the students on grammar and punctuation as a review. The sections on word choice and additional help for English language learners would be good as individual readings or to refer students to on a case by case basis if I noticed errors in their essays. The sections that discuss essay types are very in-depth, so I would use them as the backbone for a lesson delivered during the class and assign them as reading as reinforcement. They could be used to open up a unit that culminates in that type of essay. I would focus on one skill in particular in each unit, such as a strong thesis, body paragraphs, introductions and conclusions, etc.

However, the example I gave drew from several different areas of the textbook. It's designed in such a way that it's easy to pick and choose what you need. You wouldn't have to adhere to their organization or go "straight down the list" in order to make sense and use of the textbook.

I appreciate that the learning objectives are separated out into boxes at the beginning of each sub-unit to make it easier for the instructor to scan for individual lessons. The organization of subjects are designed build upon each other from the smallest building blocks of writing to more complex assignments. Key takeaways and exercises are included at the close of each section as well.

The text itself is well formatted in an easy to read typeface and font.

The table of contents on the PDF is easy to use and has internal links to pages, which eliminates the need for searching for page numbers. Each subsection is also linked, which comes in hand because the chapters themselves have been broken down into such discreet sections that it's easy to find just the lesson that's needed rather than search an entire chapter.

Some of the external hyperlinks are no longer working.

I wish that some of the images and charts were easier to read in the PDF, but they can be clicked on and printed for handouts.

I did not find any glaring grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

In the lesson on developing a thesis, the textbook asks students to write a thesis on, "Texting while driving; The legal drinking age in the United States; Steroid use among professional athletes; Abortion; Racism." While these are topics that students are likely to have strong opinions on and therefore it's easy for them to create an "argument," I do not find that beginning compositions students have the finesse to address abortion and racism delicately. That could easily spiral into a hurtful and insensitive writing exercise. The examples of essays included in the textbook themselves seem pretty homogeneous from a cultural perspective. There are external links to essays from more culturally diverse perspectives, but unfortunately some of them are no longer active.

Overall this is a very robust and useful textbook.

Reviewed by Bradley Hartsell, Adjunct English Instructor, Emory & Henry College on 3/13/19

With 600+ pages, this textbook really builds college writing from the ground up, starting with 'sentence writing' and 'subject-verb agreement' all the way up to writing a research paper and examples of 10 different kinds of essay. In between, the... read more

With 600+ pages, this textbook really builds college writing from the ground up, starting with 'sentence writing' and 'subject-verb agreement' all the way up to writing a research paper and examples of 10 different kinds of essay. In between, the textbook is thorough in its explanations and rife with exercises concerning grammar-related instruction and essay construction. I'm not left feeling an aspect I teach in my courses is ignored or goes underserved.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The textbook's explanation of grammar and sentence construction certainly seem correct, as does their advanced lessons such as developing and revising a thesis statement. However, I did errors on pg. 44 and pg. 49 ("Computers are tool" has a missing word; "The entire family overslept Because because we lost power" and "He has been seeing a physical therapist Since since his accident" seem indicate that those are correct sentences as written, failing to account for the repeated and incorrectly capitalized word). Regarding biases, on pg. 359, in strengthening a working thesis about teenage girls becoming too sexualized, the authors take some editorial liberties asserting that "It is true that some young women in today's society are more sexualized..."; it seems distracting for them to comment on this topic at all, at least without any providing any couched language, like "While the writer of this thesis may feel this way, he or she should also consider X, Y, and Z..."; for example, the authors suggest this 'student' should ask themselves the following questions, including "What constitutes 'too sexualized?'" which is an instructive question for the 'student' to ask themselves but the authors should also be operating within those same parameters, or better yet, abstaining from any comment on female sexuality at all. Also, their example sentences/questions seem conspicuously politically-charged (e.g. "The welfare system is a joke" pg. 358; "Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation." pg. 357; "Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration." pg. 355). And lastly, there are unnecessary editorial uses (i.e. not instruction sentences, examples, etc.) of gendered pronouns ('He' being a bad storyteller, pg. 353).

English grammar and college writing have the convenience of not really going out of date; APA/MLA formatting can easily be updated accordingly.

This textbook does a good job of putting grammatical jargon, like independent clauses, in plain terms so that anyone can understand it. Even as an English instructor, I don't always readily recall the correct terms and exact definitions, even if I know how to use them in practice, so Writing for Success does a nice job of stripping away heightened language and providing plenty of right/wrong examples, therefore making something otherwise pedantic fairly accessible.

Throughout the comprehensive span of the textbook, I see no departure in the terminology or the fairly conversational style of communicating information.

This textbook is formatted and coherently layered in a way that is easy to visualize and process, with properly sectioned-off section introductions, lesson 'tips,' examples, and exercises.

The textbook flows in a logical, linear fashion, beginning with simple 'subject-verb agreement' and each section linearly building from the one that came before it, until now-grammatically correct sentence structure can be built into more complex sentences, and thus drafting a college essay (and so on).

The interface is fluid; it's convenient that it goes to desired page upon click in the table of contents; places to enter answers prompt a text bar to allow you to write into.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

See above--there are no major errors that I can tell, but I did see careless mistakes on pg. 44 and pg. 49.

I find this textbook greatly lacking here. Exercise 1 on pg. 355 asks students to make a student for, in part, 'abortion' and 'racism.' Why? The former is especially charged. Elsewhere, the authors can be clumsy when addressing femininity, race, and politics. Again, why include charged examples? Yes, most language is mostly inoffensive (e.g. "My mother freezed the remaining tomatoes from her garden so that she could use them during the winter), but be it editorial or 'student' examples, they needlessly make allusions to divisive topics. Allow me to restate from above: on pg. 359, in strengthening a working thesis about teenage girls becoming too sexualized, the authors take some editorial liberties asserting that "It is true that some young women in today's society are more sexualized..."; it seems distracting for them to comment on this topic at all, at least without any providing any couched language, like "While the writer of this thesis may feel this way, he or she should also consider X, Y, and Z..."; for example, the authors suggest this 'student' should ask themselves the following questions, including "What constitutes 'too sexualized?'" which is an instructive question for the 'student' to ask themselves but the authors should also be operating within those same parameters, or better yet, abstaining from any comment on female sexuality at all. Also, their example sentences/questions seem conspicuously politically-charged (e.g. "The welfare system is a joke" pg. 358; "Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation." pg. 357; "Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration." pg. 355). And lastly, there are unnecessary editorial uses (i.e. not instruction sentences, examples, etc.) of gendered pronouns ('He' being a bad storyteller, pg. 353). Regardless of the authors' politics, left or right, it seems relatively easy to use language and examples without allusions to politics--socially, bodily, or otherwise.

The idea and general execution of this textbook is everything I want in an English textbook--free for my students to use and comprehensive enough to cover any reasonable topic to expect in my composition classes. For me, the variety in my class calls for some students needing very basic attention paid to grammar (check), while others ace grammar and need thesis strengthening or outlining of research topics (check). There are a couple of grammar mistakes I've noted (which suggests there could be more that I've missed), and I strongly believe some (many?) editorial decisions need to be shelved, namely that of the authors' inclusion of politically-adjacent (or even politically-charged) language and examples. Students in a first-year writing course shouldn't be asked to develop a thesis statement about abortion, or read the authors imply something of a referendum on an assassinated president.

Reviewed by James Gapinski, Instructional Specialist, Chemeketa Community College on 3/8/19

WRITING FOR SUCCESS has extensive depth and breadth. It is over 600 pages in the PDF format, but it doesn’t contain much redundant or extraneous information. The book starts with some discussion of how college writing is different from other forms... read more

WRITING FOR SUCCESS has extensive depth and breadth. It is over 600 pages in the PDF format, but it doesn’t contain much redundant or extraneous information. The book starts with some discussion of how college writing is different from other forms of writing—setting up that distinction provides realistic expectations and contextualization for beginning college-level writers. The book moves into a discussion of reading strategies, emphasizing the importance of comprehending and exploring college readings before diving into writing assignments. I like how these pre-writing discussions frame the entire book, moving naturally toward more technical chapters on grammar and usage, revision, research, and documentation styles. This book is a beast, containing just about anything a writing teacher might need for introductory composition students.

This book is accurate and thorough. I do not notice errors in fact.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS contains useful information that is likely relevant on many college campuses. It is current, but it is not necessarily forward-thinking in its scope. Within the state of Oregon—and more broadly on the national stage—college-level writing is moving toward multimodal composition. This book covers the classic writing assignments found in a typical college classroom, but it does not dive as explicitly into emerging forms of writing. In coming years, outcomes and assessments will likely focus on multiple expressive modes within the composition process. Shifts toward new modes of writing will render the book obsolete if it is not amended or updated. Moreover, there are some missed opportunities in this book for embedding more URLs that prompt additional research and intertextual learning. There are some chapters that incorporate links to online writings by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., links to online library resources, and so on, but these are few and far between in WRITING FOR SUCCESS. A broader focus on new media could greatly improve this book’s long-term relevance.

This textbook is clear and accessible. Whenever new terminology is introduced, definitions are readily provided and explained. It scaffolds information meaningfully and thoughtfully.

This book features consistent formatting and organization. After students have read one or two chapters, they will expect some charts and tables that help define concepts, quick tips in each chapter, and regular exercises to practice what they’ve learned. These learning tools are provided in predictable ways, so students are not caught off-guard by new content.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS breaks information into recognizable modules. Chapters are clearly organized around core themes, and they could be easily assigned piecemeal or out-of-sequence. Additionally, within each chapter, information is presented in bite-sized pieces, with clear headings for navigation and reference. Overall, navigation is clear, and this textbook’s format allows instructors to pick and choose which topics they want students to read.

Topics follow a logical order. The book starts with an introduction to college writing, moves into writing basics, and ends with discussion of formal research writing. The section on English Language Learners felt out of sequence, as if it were placed into the book at random. The ELL chapter is extremely valuable and should remain in the book, but on a macro level, it does not flow with the surrounding chapters. Still, that is only one hiccup in an otherwise well-organized book.

The interface is clean, and this book is offered in multiple formats for ease of access. I personally read the PDF format, and it was easy to navigate. The informational boxes with tips and exercises were eye-catching, and the text itself is formatted well.

I did not notice any glaring grammatical problems.

WRITING FOR SUCCESS draws from examples and recommends additional readings across several cultural contexts, so it earns some kudos for that. Moreover, the book is aware of its own textual inferences; when the book presents students with hypothetical examples, the fictitious students are not exclusively given Indo-European names. However, some problems arise elsewhere in the text. For example, there is a sample exercise that talks about “gay marriage” being legal in six states. Not only is “marriage equality” a more inclusive term, but the exercise itself is outdated and does not reflect the fact that marriage equality is now recognized on the federal level. In another example, the narrative essay section directs students to several pieces written by Sherman Alexie. While its important to include native authors in textbooks, Sherman Alexie has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. In the #MeToo era, perhaps Natalie Diaz or Louise Erdrich are more appropriate native writers to highlight. While these are just two isolated examples, I found several other microaggressions and culturally insensitive missteps in this book. It feels out-of-touch in key moments. These problems could be addressed through some surgical revisions, but this aspect of the text is problematic in its current form.

Overall, this is a comprehensive book with many valuable chapters. It has some shortcomings, and I would be hesitant to adopt the book in its entirety. However, its incredible breadth and thoughtful modularity allows instructors to pick and choose which chapters best fit their learning goals.

Reviewed by Dhipinder Walia, Lecturer, Lehman College on 5/21/18

This text covers all structural and technical concepts in Standard American English using succinct tutorials and relevant examples. Additionally, there are several sections that may guide student writers towards major writing assignments like the... read more

This text covers all structural and technical concepts in Standard American English using succinct tutorials and relevant examples. Additionally, there are several sections that may guide student writers towards major writing assignments like the research paper, the narrative essay, and the expository essay.

The content is accurate and error-free.

The instructional material is up to date and will not easily become out of date. The only portion that I found less than timely is the APA/MLA portion as well as the visual chapter. The aesthetics of charting and presentations has already changed since this publication.

There is no jargon here. Everything is intended for a beginner writer. It is also easy for instructors to layer on difficult concepts during lecture if students are up for it.

The tone is consistent as is the emphasis on the writer and their process.

Modularity rating: 3

I didn't find the organization to be effective. Traditionally, in a composition course, I am not going to assign a student to read chapters on mechanics. Rather, I would assign a type of writing alongside a reading alongside a particular concept. It might be interesting to readjust the organization to show the way grammar, structure, and content work together rather than apart.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

As mentioned above, I don't think the flow works as an instructional tool for a first year writing course. I think it works better as a supplementary resource for a student writer.

There were no interface issues.

This text contained no grammatical errors

The text is not insensitive though the readings are political in nature.

This is a useful text for composition instructors to have, particularly when teaching an online course. I could easily copy and paste tutorials into my feedback for students. Should the structure of this text change, I may consider using it as a text.

Reviewed by Catherine Batsche, Associate Dean, University of South Florida on 3/27/18

This text provides a comprehensive overview of writing. The text covers basic writing skills, organizational skills, and the writing process. There are even chapters on writing research papers and various types of essays. It could be used as a... read more

This text provides a comprehensive overview of writing. The text covers basic writing skills, organizational skills, and the writing process. There are even chapters on writing research papers and various types of essays. It could be used as a text for a writing course or as a reference book for students who need to work on selected problem areas to improve their writing.

The text provided accurate information, good examples, and several activities to reinforce the major points in each chapter.

The book contains basic information about writing that should continue to be relevant over time.

Clarity rating: 3

The writing style of the book is extremely clear and easy to follow.

The framework for this book is applied consistently across chapters and sections. Each chapter begins with clearly stated learning objectives, exercises, learning tips, and key takeaways.

The book can easily be used as stand-alone chapters, entire sections, or the book as a whole. I plan to use several chapters in workshops to train teaching assistants who will grade assignments in writing-intensive courses. The teaching assistants will then use the entire book as a reference book when providing feedback to students.

The text is well organized and flows in a clear, logical fashion. Some chapters may be less useful for some classes depending on the purpose of the class. For example, the first few chapters on study skills seems out of place in relation to the remainder of the text. Likewise, the chapters on APA and MLA style are too condensed to provide more than an overview and will need to be supplemented with other material. However, these chapters do not detract from the overall quality of the book.

The presentation of the book does not have as much visual appeal as some other online books. It is text-heavy but well organized. I had no problem navigating the book.

I have not found any grammatical errors.

I have not found any examples that might be offensive. However, I have not yet used the book in its entirety so I will learn more about this aspect as I begin to use it with students.

Many undergraduate students need to improve their writing skills but don't know how to get the help they need. This book provides a valuable resource for students who need to learn more about the writing process as well as those who need to improve in specific areas such as grammar and punctuation. I plan to use the text to train teaching assistants how to provide feedback to students who are taking courses that have major writing assignments. This is an excellent book that can be used as a stand-alone text or as a supplemental reference in any course that has major writing assignments.

Reviewed by Davida Jordan, Adjunct Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/15/17

Extremely comprehensive, clocking in at over 600 pages, this book is an excellent grammar reference for writing students. It includes practical exercises that can be used to strengthen work writing or academic writing. It would appeal to a wide... read more

Extremely comprehensive, clocking in at over 600 pages, this book is an excellent grammar reference for writing students. It includes practical exercises that can be used to strengthen work writing or academic writing. It would appeal to a wide variety of students, from beginning to advanced and is arranged in order of increasing difficulty. Besides giving practical information about grammar and writing, the text includes helpful suggestions on organization, time management, and study skills.

There are some small typos such as missing letters or words. Overall, the book is mainly error-free, but for a good grammar and writing textbook, it really should be 100% accurate. The tone is unbiased and in fact is encouraging and fair.

The book addresses the complexities of writing in the twenty-first century and guides students through carefully choosing their online resources and verifying their validity.

I appreciated the additional examples of different rhetorical styles at the very end of the book; however, many of the links were broken. This is an easy-to-remedy problem, though.

The text uses encouraging languages and easy-to-understand metaphors to illustrate abstract concepts.

The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework from chapter to chapter. There is a reliable pattern that each chapter follows.

Most of the time, it's easy to pick out the different sections of the book because they are color-coded or similarly marked. For example, nearly all of the Key Takeaways are in a green box. All of the Tips for Writing at Work are in a grey box. All of the Learning Objectives are in a black box.

It's possible to click on writing examples and view them in a larger version in a new window.

Although the book builds in terms of levels of difficulty, it would be very easy to use a chapter out of order to suit the instructor's needs. Each chapter can stand alone even though some pieces of writing are carried through as examples from chapter to chapter. This gives the book cohesiveness but doesn't impede its modularity.

The text is logical and clear. Grammatical concepts are explained thoroughly, and the writing process is taken apart step-by-step for the students.

There are several parts where an underlined sentence is referred to, but it's not actually underlined in the text. It's possible this is only a problem in the PDF version. Overall, the formatting is clear and easy to follow.

Seeing as it's a grammar and writing textbook, the grammatical errors are minimal.

The text includes great excerpts from diverse authors such as Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, Gary Shteyngart, and MLK.

In the opening chapters, some grammatical concepts were addressed superficially but then were returned to in more detail in later chapters, which was reassuring. Chapter 5 focuses on English language learners, the students I teach. However, the entire book could be useful to both native and non-native English speakers.

Reviewed by Rachel Wilson, Adult Education Instructor, Bossier Parish Community College on 6/20/17

The text covers all its bases, from success and study skills for new college students to draft, revising, writing, and presenting a research paper. Chapters 1 through 5 cover the basics of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice,... read more

The text covers all its bases, from success and study skills for new college students to draft, revising, writing, and presenting a research paper. Chapters 1 through 5 cover the basics of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice, and these chapters cover only that which is most important to writing without getting into unnecessary grammar review. The text provides relevant exercises to go along with each chapter and its individual sections. In chapter 6, the author discusses paragraphing, while in chapter 7, he provides the student tips on improving writing at a sentence level. Chapter 8 covers the writing process, providing ample information on pre-writing strategies and revision and editing techniques. The text also effectively walks the student through the process of writing an essay in chapter 9 and discusses the rhetorical modes in depth in chapter 10. The last chapters (11-15) are dedicated to researching, writing research papers, presenting those papers,0 documenting sources, and providing sample essays in the different rhetorical modes. While the author does a good job covering the basics of documenting sources, I would still have to send my students to their writing handbook or the OWL at Purdue for comprehensive coverage of the source citation formats.

This text is, as far as I can see, both accurate and error-free, though, as stated above, there are a few sections (mostly with documentation) where outside sources would have to be consulted for in depth discussions of the topics.

The only area I feel could use a little updating would be the documentation chapter, though for just an overview, it does its job adequately. The text is set up in a way that seems to allow for easy updates as necessary, and the information contained within is timeless enough to withstand possible changes in writing instruction.

The text is written in easily understandable prose and defines its particular terms in an accessible way for students.

Consistency rating: 2

The text maintains consistency and follows a well-organized framework.

This text is organized in such a way that makes it easy to assign small readings to students without having to jump back and forth between chapters or different parts of the book in general.

The text builds on itself, from having the necessary study skills to understanding basic grammar and sentence structure to navigating the writing process. It then transitions from the writing process to the essay, the types of essays, and research papers. It ends with documentation and presentation of research. I would suggest, though, including chapter 15 (readings on the rhetorical modes) in the chapter on rhetorical modes (chapter 10) or distinguishing it as an appendix rather than a chapter of its own at the end.

The features of the textbook within the text itself are easily navigated, especially with hyperlinks to jump to specific parts of the book. However, while the book does have a short section index at the beginning of each chapter, a comprehensive table of contents at the beginning, or even an index at the end, of the book would go a long way in making this work more easily accessible to the everyday user. As it currently stands, a user must scroll through the entire document to find what the book covers. While an instructor can direct his or her students to specific sections with the appropriate PDF page number, the student user would not be able to discover specific information in the text efficiently right off hand.

With having read through the text, and to the best of my grammar knowledge, I see no major errors or typos.

The text is appropriately inclusive and culturally sensitive.

As an Adult Education Instructor without access to textbooks in the classroom for my students, it is especially helpful to have access to a college level textbook that discusses the basics of grammar and writing my students will need very soon. Instead of having to make copies that will get thrown away or lost, I can give my students the link to this text and assign them specific sections to read before each lesson. As I will soon be teaching a college-level English 101 as well, I am excited to have this text as a supplement to the department-required text.

Reviewed by R.A.Q. Jenkins, Assistant Professor, Southern University and A&M College on 6/20/17

One of this text's advantages is its comprehensiveness. However, I find that too much emphasis was placed on writing basics, which in fact, comprises the bulk of the text. While this portion is extensive, I found the chapter on rhetorical modes... read more

One of this text's advantages is its comprehensiveness. However, I find that too much emphasis was placed on writing basics, which in fact, comprises the bulk of the text. While this portion is extensive, I found the chapter on rhetorical modes lacking. For example, Narration was covered in four pages. I would have preferred more emphasis on basic features of each mode, guided writing practice, and illustrations/visuals (annotated sample essays). The text does not include a glossary or index, which are additional disadvantages. Overall, however, I find this text effective.

The content appears accurate and error-free.

The overall content is foundational, so relevance is not an issue. Formatting and style guides, URLs, and sample essays can be readily updated as needed.

Besides its comprehensiveness, a highlight of the text is its clarity. The writing directly addresses the student much more so than other texts I have used. The conversational tone, especially in the early chapters, should engage even the most reluctant writer. Many of the tips and advice provided serve to assist students beyond the composition course into the whole of their academic career and the workplace. This is definitely a student-friendly text.

Chapters are consistently organized throughout and feature learning objectives, exercises, collaborative activities, and key takeaways, which should be particularly helpful for students. Several of the exercises require students to revisit and revise a previous exercise, as new skills and knowledge are acquired.

This text is suitable for modules, which would allow instructors to organize chapters according to the demands of the course and student's needs. Much of this text's early chapters would serve as much needed review and guided practice for students, since more so than other texts I have used, this one provides in-depth coverage of basic writing skills. Chapters 10-15 should meet the needs of most first year writing programs.

The text is well-organized. However, the sample essays (ch. 15) would have been better placed after the rhetorical modes chapter (ch. 10). The strength of the text's organization are the chapters on writing a research paper and visual presentations.

I downloaded the PDF version and had no significant problems with the interface. The only issue I did have was after clicking a hyperlink then attempting to return to the text, I was redirected to the beginning. This may be an inconvenience for some.

I did not notice any grammatical errors.

The text refrains from cultural insensitivity. Several of the examples, grammar exercises, and sample readings were inclusive of various kinds of diversity. In particular, a text's sample essays plays a crucial role in my overall satisfaction, as I expect to see culturally relevant essays that may resonate with my students. This text included commonly used standbys, such as King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail and Alexie's Indian Education.

Reviewed by William Broussard, Assistant Professor, English, Southern University on 6/20/17

The book covers the writing process, several essay styles, as well as grammar and syntax exercises thoroughly without being intimidating, and is excellently paced. Particularly impressive is the amount of detail given to the sentence, paragraph,... read more

The book covers the writing process, several essay styles, as well as grammar and syntax exercises thoroughly without being intimidating, and is excellently paced. Particularly impressive is the amount of detail given to the sentence, paragraph, punctuation, and the particulars of the writing process.

The book accurately describes, in great detail, all elements of the writing process. Combines all elements of a traditional handbook with specific reference to the rhetorics of several essay styles, and does so in an encouraging manner. Aim is clearly to encourage non-English/Writing majors.

Content appears up-to-date, and of note is a section on presentations and visual rhetorics which will be useful and likely interesting to contemporary students. Book is light on visual imagery, making it less appealing to contemporary/millennial students, but its structure seems amenable to relatively easy updating, and all links were accurate.

The book is clear and provides many examples of student writing to explain the application of material discussed in each chapter.

The book moves along at a predictable pace and begins with building blocks of writing (sentence and paragraph style, punctuation, process) before moving on to more complex assignments. By Chapter 15, which focuses on a number of essay styles, the student has had individual chapters to prepare each step of building an essay, ensuring mastery before taking on more complex projects.

It is simple to imagine this textbook divided into two parts so as to encompass an English 1 and English 2 textbook, and to imagine teaching the introductory elements while interspersing major assignments from Chapter 15 alternatingly.

Well-organized, and as mentioned previously, it is excellently paced with each ensuing chapter building logically upon the previous one.

The book is lacking only in this area. The pdf version features noticeably few visual images and pictures, and very few links for students to interact with supplementary materials to the text. However, the author provides a link for the submission materials which shows an openness to addressing it. However, what is included is accurate and appropriate.

No perceived grammatical or spelling errors. Simple and clear writing style.

Text is inoffensive, but lack of visual texts or discussion of more challenging contemporary topics (the book does not include any sample texts by contemporary authors on challenging issues).

An excellent choice for introductory writing courses.

Reviewed by Emily Aucoin, Assistant Professor, River Parishes Community College on 6/20/17

The textbook effectively covers the writing process and addresses mechanical and grammatical concerns. While the chapter devoted to rhetorical modes is not terribly in depth, it does an adequate job of introducing and explaining each type of... read more

The textbook effectively covers the writing process and addresses mechanical and grammatical concerns. While the chapter devoted to rhetorical modes is not terribly in depth, it does an adequate job of introducing and explaining each type of writing assignment. The research section of the text is effective, but the MLA references are dated. There also is a detailed table of contents but no glossary.

The textbook's content seems accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

For the most part, the content seems relevant and long-standing. The main area in need of updating is MLA, but linking to an outside website could quickly remedy this problem.

The book is written in a straight-forward, clear manner that should be readily understood by most freshmen-level students. The embedded exercises and tips also are accessible.

The included terminology is clear and consistent, as well as appropriate for the subject matter. The chapters also follow a logical framework and reinforce material through exercises and relevant examples.

The textbook easily can be divided into smaller, stand-alone reading sections. Instructors should be able to readily assign portions of the text to meet their course learning outcomes and objectives.

Overall, the textbook is well organized; it effectively addresses key elements of grammar and mechanics, walks students through the writing process, and details various types of writing. While I would like to see Chapter 10 (Rhetorical Modes) divided into separate, better detailed chapters, on the whole, the textbook's organization is logical.

The textbook was easy to follow, particularly because of the detailed table of contents and chapter outlines. Some links also were included throughout to help readers more easily navigate the text.

The text seems free of grammatical errors.

The text does not seem culturally insensitive or offensive. Some of the linked essays in Chapter 15, for example, provide students with readings that are culturally diverse.

On the whole, this is an effective, comprehensive resource that could be of use in any freshman-level composition course.

Reviewed by Genevieve Halkett, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 4/11/17

The book is extremely comprehensive, beginning with the concept of college writing, moving on to writing basics such as sentence structure, punctuation, and paragraph structure. it provides a good guide to essays; it includes basic structure,... read more

The book is extremely comprehensive, beginning with the concept of college writing, moving on to writing basics such as sentence structure, punctuation, and paragraph structure. it provides a good guide to essays; it includes basic structure, rhetorical modes, research and documentation and ten different types of model essays.

The index is complete and easy to follow.

There are a few typographical errors but the majority of the 607-page resource was accurate.

There was no real bias though I would like to see more cultural variety in the literary excerpts and situations used in the exercises.

Most of the resource focuses on writing and grammatical structure; there may be small changes that need to be made as the use of the English language evolves; however, this will be negligible. I anticipate this text requiring very few changes in years to come.

it is well laid-out and easy to follow. The explanations, examples, and directions are clear and concise. It is also written with both native and English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) speakers in mind; the word choice and structure reflect this.

The text's framework and terminology are consistent; I did not see any examples of inconsistency.

This resource lends itself to a modular approach; it would be easy for an instructor to relevant chapters that reflect student needs, course time constraints, or changes within a curriculum.

The resource's is consistent overall; each chapter begins with learning objectives, explanation, examples, exercises, and key takeaways. It is a good resource for students since they are quickly able to anticipate and follow each chapter.

This resource was quite simply designed; there are no charts or images that would lead to confusion. Enough space is given so that blocks of text are read without difficulty and it is free of distraction.

Since it is a writing textbook, I was gratified to find that the grammatical structure and use was very accurate.

I would definitely have like to have seen more examples of the races, ethnicities, and backgrounds I encounter in class; most of the examples used were extremely neutral and reflected a very narrow strata of society. For me, this was the weakest part of the text.

This is an excellent resource-well structured, user friendly and easily adaptable. My main concern-the lack of cultural relevance- can be balanced by providing supplementary materials reflective of the learners' cultures and backgrounds.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Sandell, Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato on 4/11/17

Provides instruction in steps and sections; builds writing, reading, and critical thinking; and combines comprehensive grammar review with paragraph writing and composition. Provides a range of discussion ideas, examples, and exercises. Serves... read more

Provides instruction in steps and sections; builds writing, reading, and critical thinking; and combines comprehensive grammar review with paragraph writing and composition. Provides a range of discussion ideas, examples, and exercises. Serves both students and instructors. 600+ pages -- very comprehensive.

Quite accurate in terms of the information provided. Uses sources that we use in my writing-intensive classes, so the book is addressing real needs in the classroom. Suggestions reinforce the concepts and practices that our librarians share with students and instructors.

Thought-provoking scenarios provides opportunities for collaboration and interaction. The exercises are especially useful for working with groups of students, which is how I organize workshops and discussions in my classes. Tips for effective writing are included in every chapter. It's nice to have positive examples of how to write, rather than dwelling on negative examples of how not to write. Addresses each concept with clear, concise,and effective examples that are reinforced with opportunities to demonstrate learning. This textbook will be useful for students throughout their academic studies.

Very clear. Clear exercises teach sentence and paragraph writing skills that I already try to emphasize in my classes. I will use many of the exercises, but base them on the content of my course curriculum, instead of generic assignments.

Provides consistent and constant reinforcement through examples and exercises about writing. Involves students in the learning process through reading, problem-solving, practicing, and experiences in the processes of writing.

Modularity rating: 2

Each chapter is stand-alone and easy to read on-line or to print and read off-line. Each chapter has examples that organize the discussion and form a common basis for learning.

Overall, the organization, structure, and flow is fine. Textbook is more than 600 pages, which makes it more of a reference / resource book. I will pull materials that I need for my specific writing-intensive course.

Presents comfortable, easy-to-read material with simple graphics and helpful charts. The Table of Contents does not allow the reader to jump directly to the chapter or section.

The text contains no grammatical errors that I found... If there had been a few mistakes, I would still use the text as a resource.

I am starting to use the idea of the academy as a culture. So, in the writing-intensive course I teach about human relations in a multicultural society, I emphasize how student writing in college must be qualitatively different than writing in secondary schools. I am delighted that this text begins with an introduction to that very idea. Word choices in the text imply inclusion of a variety of ethnic groups and audience backgrounds (e.g., Malik, Miguel, Elizabeth).

I will use this book in a second-year general education writing-intensive course. This resource is useful and friendly, although it is very long. With its incremental approach, the text addresses a wide range of writing levels and abilities. I think students will appreciate it as a resource that they can use throughout their academic life.

The text would also be valuable in a first-year intro-to-college course (we call it First Year Experience), because it teaches many useful academic study practices. For first-generation college students, this text introduces many strategies about how to "do college" with which their families may not be familiar.

Reviewed by Leann Gertsma, Adjunct English Instructor, Minnesota West Community & Technical College on 2/8/17

I was surprised to find this textbook to be a very comprehensive writing handbook. It not only covers grammar and sentence structure, but also devotes a lot of time to the topics of college writing, the writing process, writing techniques, and... read more

I was surprised to find this textbook to be a very comprehensive writing handbook. It not only covers grammar and sentence structure, but also devotes a lot of time to the topics of college writing, the writing process, writing techniques, and essay types. All the sections are clearly labeled with useful exercises to guide students through the material. I appreciated the hyperlinks throughout to navigate to other related sections. One area that seemed to be lacking was the table of contents in each new chapter. These pages were not enabled with hyperlinks and failed to have page numbers associated with them.

I felt this text was accurate. It contains good information for first year writing students. I did not see any bias or errors throughout.

While I did find most of the information current and very relevant to writing students, some of the links in the last chapter did not work. As websites continually change, these would need to be updated on a regular basis. The research chapters would also need to be updated on a regular basis as these materials change frequently.

I found the textbook to be clear. The prose was adequate for first year composition students. There are many examples in the chapters that are relevant to the readers and help put the concepts into practical application.

This textbook is consistent in language, tone, and structure.

The textbook is arranged in an easy to use fashion. The chapters have easy to follow headings, and the key concepts are highlighted. All the chapters are arranged in a similar manner with objectives, lessons, examples, exercises, and key takeaways. Instructors can easily assign specific sections or chapters, while skipping others without confusion. I think the APA and MLA chapter should be split into two chapters to avoid confusion.

The topics are arranged in a clear structure throughout the text. I would have liked to see the chapters arranged in a different format, but this is a minor problem as the instructor can assign the chapters in a different order than they are presented.

This textbook was easy to navigate. The only concern I saw with this was the several of hyperlinks in the final chapter did not work anymore.

I did not find any errors in the text.

I did not see any insensitive or offensive language in the text.

I liked the example papers in the text. However, I wish there were more of them. I also found the chapter on APA and MLA a bit confusing. Students often struggle with these concepts so I think they should have been presented differently. The two styles should not be lumped together in one chapter. They should be separated.

Reviewed by Timothy VanSlyke, Instructor, Chemeketa Community College on 2/8/17

Although there is no index or glossary, I feel that the text is very comprehensive in its coverage of developmental writing. The text clearly walks the student through the writing process and introduces the major rhetorical styles students will... read more

Although there is no index or glossary, I feel that the text is very comprehensive in its coverage of developmental writing. The text clearly walks the student through the writing process and introduces the major rhetorical styles students will face in college. It is clear that the author has worked extensively with the population(s) likely to have need of this course and has planned a comprehensive curriculum to serve them. Having worked extensively with students needing to develop their academic writing skills, I found it very straightforward to adopt the text and align it with my course outcomes.

Content is definitely error free and unbiased. I haven't found any errors or content that struck me as biased or inaccurate.

I think this book will be relevant for quite some time as the need for students to communicate effectively in writing is not going to change. The organization of the text lends itself to updating quite well. For example, the sections devoted to grammar and mechanics, the writing process, and rhetorical styles may need little or no updating, while over time, the sections devoted to research writing (e.g. MLA style) might need more revision.

Given that this book is intended for developing writers, I feel clarity is essential. Too much jargon would scare away students who may already feel overwhelmed. This book strikes an excellent balance between communicating important concepts and terms without being overly technical. Good examples of this can be found in the sections on grammar and mechanics as well as in the rhetorical modes section.

The organization of the book easily lends itself to easy navigation, chapters are divided into logical sections (e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3) and each section follows a consistent format. There are recurring sections that are color coded (exercises in blue boxes, "key takeaways" in green boxes) and the numbering system is clear and logical. The only downside is that the downloadable PDF version of the book doesn't have a table of contents, but I found that if your pdf reader can show bookmarks, there are bookmarks to each of the sections.

This book is very modular. Each chapter is divided into sub-sections (chapter 1.1, 1.2, etc) and the sections are logically divided and lend themselves to easy be assigned as separate readings.

The structure of the text is logical and clear, but what I like most is that the chapters are not overly dependent on a linear flow, which allows me to assign chapters out of sequence without worrying that it will be disruptive to students.

I would describe the interface as quite user friendly. A quick skim of the online Table of Contents is all that is needed to understand the organization of the text and its major sections. Accessing each section is quite easy with the links provided.

One standout in this area is a complete chapter devoted to second language learners, which is quite useful for this population. Otherwise, I have found this to be an excellent resource that introduced students to the academic culture.

Overall I am very pleased with this text, and excited that I can offer my students a book of this quality completely for free!

Reviewed by Jennie Harrop, Chair, Department of Professional Studies, George Fox University on 2/8/17

Writing for Success is admirably comprehensive, but maybe a little too much so. While some professors will find the one-source stop helpful in reducing textbook costs, many students will be overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of information. Because... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

Writing for Success is admirably comprehensive, but maybe a little too much so. While some professors will find the one-source stop helpful in reducing textbook costs, many students will be overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of information. Because the text attempts to cover so much in a single volume, much of the information is offered at a surface level without the depth necessary for the content to become memorable and meaningful. Two key components that are missing in this text because of its surface-level scope are the WHY (why is this information relevant?) and the HOW (how do I apply this?).

Most information is accurate, although some is not thorough enough. When explaining the dash or parentheses, for example, it might be helpful for students to hear when and why these punctuation marks are most effectively used. If a student masters the use of parentheses as described in section 3.6, should he or she pepper an essay with lots of parenthetical asides? If not, why not?

In the section on APA formatting, the title page running heads are not correct.

The key information in the text will not become outdated, although the examples and the sample texts will. The book would benefit from consistent updates to ensure that the examples are culturally sensitive and generationally appropriate. The APA and MLA sections will also need consistent updates.

The prose is clear, but the information covered is not always. In section 5.2 titled "Negative Statements," for example, students are told that negative statements are the opposite of positive statements, but the text does not explain why this information is worth considering. In section 5.6 titled "Modal Auxiliaries," the text moves immediately to examples and exercises without an explanation of why this information might be pertinent or useful.

The terminology and framework presented are consistent throughout.

The text is consistently broken into individual chunks of information rather than meandering prose, which can be enormously helpful for students. Some sections jump directly into the modular chunks of examples and exercises without bothering with any explanatory sections at all, however. In those cases, students need some kind of explanation of why the information presented is important and relevant.

The text's organization is consistent and easy to navigate. The information is presented in divisions familiar to most writing texts: (1) mechanics, (2) writing process, and (3) sample essays.

The Table of Contents is a helpful feature, allowing one to skip through topics easily. I was unable to download this text in a way that would allow me to highlight or make notes.

The grammar is correct throughout.

The examples used are culturally sensitive but mostly bland in a way that makes them forgettable and unimpactful. If cultural relevance means that we whitewash, this text is successful; if it means that we step into the controversy, then the examples in this book need to be more forthright and genuine.

I have used this book in a basic writing course, and I found the students informed but uninspired. I will continue to require this text as a reference books for all students in our program, but I will seek a more lively text for future writing courses in order to keep students engaged, enthusiastic, and forward-thinking.

Reviewed by Sherri Kurczewski, Instructor , Portland Community College on 12/5/16

This book has sections that I would cover in my class. It is a basic writing tool for beginner writers in college. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 1 see less

This book has sections that I would cover in my class. It is a basic writing tool for beginner writers in college.

Overall the book is accurate. It goes over the basic differences of high school vs. college writing with additional grammar explanations and exercises.

This book is for a basic writing class for students who are underprepared for college level writing.

The book was written very direct to the beginning college writer. The tables help explain the differences in high school vs. college writing.

The consistency of the book was good. There was not a lot of terminology that would be over the students understanding.

The book is good at putting each section together. There are small, yet informative grammar sections. An instructor may skip over some chapters without confusing the student.

The organization of the book seems fine. It has the basic ideas of writing and then leads to grammar.

There were no issues with navigation of this file.

I did not see any errors in grammar.

This is a straightforward book without many examples. I did not see any issues.

I would definitely use this book in my basic writing class. It is a quick read and I could easily pull out sections to use and compare.

Reviewed by Anna Erwert, Adjunct faculty, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

The book is extremely comprehensive. If a college works on a 10-week quarter, it's unlikely a student would use the whole book. However, I personally like this completeness because it allows flexibility. Whole class, we could use the chapter on... read more

The book is extremely comprehensive. If a college works on a 10-week quarter, it's unlikely a student would use the whole book. However, I personally like this completeness because it allows flexibility. Whole class, we could use the chapter on the writing process, and then after essay 1, I could assess writers and assign them portions of the sentence level and grammar sections as needed. Also the most common writing errors, like comma splices and frags, are covered and include exercises.

With a decade plus teaching college Writing and Reading, I feel the book is accurate in the sense that it covers what students actually need. I did not see bias. It is very concise and matter-of-fact.

It's relevant eternally, but one caveat: most colleges are moving toward supporting Reading and Writing in one class. Integration of reading skills would be a way to keep this book fresh.

Very little jargon. Everything is well defined, though I do think more examples and samples would be nice. However: this is an easy section for the individual instructor to augment.

Very consistent.

This is my favorite part of the book. It is way more inclusive than we could use in one quarter, but I could assign grammar or sentence level stuff with flexibility, as needed. I could also do the whole book in reverse (sometimes I like to start big, then move to smaller concerns)or present only the Research section for a Reading class.

Very logical but also easy to manipulate logically

There isn't anything confusing about it. I don't think it is the most engaging, exciting design in the world, but perhaps that is not the goal here. More pictures though, sorry- it is a visual age- would be welcome. Still, instructors could add in pics, slides, video, etc.

I saw no errors

The book is geared more to the college student, not the particular culture or gender. In some ways this is a relief to me, as I am trying to work with topics that bring us together, like say, the cost of college, as opposed to those that fragment us, like racial profiling. In a ten week course in one of the most diverse campuses in the PCC system, this is becoming very important. In this sense, the book fits.

Super useful framework. Teachers will augment with samples, interactive activities, visual aids, etc., but that makes it better for your specific audience anyway.

Reviewed by Olga Filatova, Visiting Assistant Professor, Miami University on 8/21/16

I was surprised by how much useful content the book has. It covers everything I would need to teach in a first year college composition writing class. The text gives overview of reading and writing strategies, and covers everything from grammar,... read more

I was surprised by how much useful content the book has. It covers everything I would need to teach in a first year college composition writing class. The text gives overview of reading and writing strategies, and covers everything from grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, sentence structure, elements of composition and writing process, to rhetorical modes and elements of research. It has so much material, that it can be adjusted to a wide range of students' needs and writing abilities. Parts of the book can be used as a reference. The book is very much in line with my course goals, and is particularly effective in helping students with writing in a variety of genres, introducing a clear thesis statement and sustaining it throughout the paper with support and evidence. It also has good tips for reading, writing and editing. However, I didn't find the section for language learners helpful. I teach composition to international students, and would definitely skip the chapter. The concepts in the chapter are not well-explained and application exercises are insufficient. This chapter can be used as a reference for instructors who don't usually work with LLs.

The content is accurate. I didn't find the readings particularly engaging, but they are good for structure analysis. The links to additional essays provide opportunities to choose more engaging reading material.

Writing foundation principles are solid. MLA and APA citation and formatting would need most often updates. The link to Purdue OWL solves this problem.

The book is written in a very clear manner. However, some of the explanation might be too long and lack sufficient examples.

The book is very consistent. I would rearrange the chapters and start with the writing process. Grammar, vocabulary and punctuation can be in a reference section of the book.

The text is divided into chapters and sections. Each of the chapters follows the same structure. The chapters have clear learning objectives, subtitles and exercises for practical application. The main points are summarized at the end. Students would have no trouble navigating the content.

The topics are presented in a logical way. As I mentioned above, I would rearrange the chapters in the book. The way the chapters are arranged now puts the emphasis on developmental writing vs rhetorical practices.

The books interface is very good.

The book is excellently written. I didn't see any grammar errors.

The book is culturally relevant. It focuses on American culture. It lacks elements of global cultural awareness, but it is good enough for the purposes.

Thank you for the book. It is very good. I will use it with my students next semester!

Reviewed by Laura Funke, Instructor, Inver Hills Community College on 8/21/16

The text is almost too comprehensive—trying to cover writing, reading, and study skills strategies. Within writing, it covers grammar, mechanics, paragraph writing, essay writing, ELL troublespots, and even documentation. Although an instructor... read more

The text is almost too comprehensive—trying to cover writing, reading, and study skills strategies. Within writing, it covers grammar, mechanics, paragraph writing, essay writing, ELL troublespots, and even documentation. Although an instructor could easily focus on specific chapters based on the level of the class and needs of the students, the effort to be comprehensive led some areas to be overly simplistic and basic. For example, in the section on writing introductions, there is a list of strategies for starting the essay (the hook or attention grabber) but not much direct instruction or modeling. In other words, quality was sometimes sacrificed for quantity.

From my experience, the content of the book was accurate in most areas, but some advice was simplistic. For example, telling English language learners to avoid slang and idioms is wrong. What often makes ELLs’ writing awkward is the lack of idioms. The advice to avoid slang might be better for a chapter for native English speakers. In the same ELL section, the author stated that simple present is used “when actions take place now” but that is not the case. Present progressive verbs are used for the current moment (“Right now, I am writing a review.”) These inaccuracies happened on occasion, but in general, the advice and information given by the writer was accurate.

The text can be easily updated because of the modular organization. The topics used for examples or exercises would benefit from regular updating. Some topics are engaging for students, but others would not be for most students (such as ‘the hardiness of the kangaroo rat’).

The text is written in using clear, accessible language that is appropriate to first year college students. New terms are explained clearly and put in bold letters. It might be helpful to put key terms and definitions in margins, as many textbooks do, or at least consider an index and glossary at the end of the book.

I didn’t notice any inconsistencies in framework or terminology.

The text is structured in such a way that instructors and students can pick and choose among relevant chapters. There are references to prior chapters, but the text doesn't assume that students have read the text from front to back. Students can easily refer back to prior chapters when more background is needed or if additional follow-up instruction is needed. One recommendation would be to include the chapter and section number on each page in a footer or header.

The information flows logically for the most part. The book begins with a broad overview of writing and student success strategies. Then it moves from sentences, to paragraphs, to essays, to research papers. One section that seemed out of place was to include 'purpose, audience, and tone' in the chapter on paragraph writing. It would seem to be a topic that could use its own chapter. I also felt that chapter 7 on sentence variety was misplaced after paragraph writing. Still, I appreciated that the author circled back to some topics briefly even if they were covered in more detail in another chapter. For example, the author discusses wordiness and word choice in the chapter on revision even though those topics were discussed in an earlier chapter. Imbedding some sentence-level concerns into the chapters on paragraph or essay writing helps students to see the relevance of the sentence-level instruction.

Occasionally an informal font is used to show student examples of writing. This playful font is difficult to read (see p. 233). It would be better to use a standard font like Times New Roman to make the text easier to read. Also, the book is very text-heavy. There are few to no engaging photographs or images for readers. Even though it is clearly organized with headings, subheadings, bold words, and other organizational devices which are very helpful, it is not visually engaging. There is a nice use of internal links. In one section, chapter 6.2 p. 247-248), the directions prior to three model paragraphs said “The topic sentence is underlined for you” but I didn’t see any underlining. I don’t know if that is an error in the text or a problem with my own computer.

I noticed no grammatical errors when reviewing the text.

The text is not culturally insensitive. However, I wouldn’t say that the writing samples are particularly engaging or daring in terms of challenging the status quo. Most of the topics are standard examples: “How to grow tomatoes from a Seedling,” “Effects of Video Game Addiction” and “Comparing and Contrasting London and Washington D.C.” I would like to see more creative and engaging course readings in the text, readings that address the interests and backgrounds of culturally- and linguistically-diverse students.

The practice exercises are often very engaging and creative. For example, p. 287 the author explains an exercise in which students rewrite children stories (written using simple prose) with more complex syntactical structures to practice sentence complexity and variety. Most all exercises are practical and student-friendly. The text doesn’t get bogged down with excessive use of exercises; instead, students’ own writing is often the basis of the exercises, making them relevant to developing their own writing skills.

Though I appreciate the author’s efforts at comprehensiveness and detail, I found the text quite dry. With more visuals, updated course readings, and perhaps an updated format that isn’t so text-heavy, the text would be more engaging for students.

Reviewed by Jennifer von Ammon, Full-time faculty, Lane Community College on 8/21/16

The text is primarily focused on grammar review and would be an appropriate text for a development writing course. Although there are several chapters dedicated to mechanics, there are limited essay assignment options, so an instructor would need... read more

The text is primarily focused on grammar review and would be an appropriate text for a development writing course. Although there are several chapters dedicated to mechanics, there are limited essay assignment options, so an instructor would need to craft engaging essay assignments to supplement the lessons.

The book appears accurate and unbiased.

Content seems fairly up-to-date though some of the suggested topics were somewhat overused (abortion, legal drinking age). Inclusion of different learning styles (visual, verbal, auditory, kinesthetic) is relevant.

The text is written clearly and has helpful headings/subheadings to organize material. Incorporating more images/illustrations could have enhanced the text.

The book is consistent in tone and structure.

The text could be assigned into smaller reading sections. I appreciated the "key takeaways" at the close of each chapter.

Though I appreciated the comprehensive coverage of grammar/sentence structure/mechanics, I would have liked to have seen the text incorporate writing assignments earlier in the text.

The text is clearly presented with headings/subheadings, but including more images may make the text more engaging for students.

The text appears to have no grammatical errors.

I did not find the text insensitive or offensive though some of the topics and references seemed somewhat outdated (MTV).

Reviewed by Paul Carney, English Instructor, Minnesota State Community and Technical College on 8/21/16

The text covers all the essentials of college composition, from the writing process and mechanics to rhetorical modes and the research paper. The material devoted to grammar, punctuation and usage is well organized and fairly thorough. While very... read more

The text covers all the essentials of college composition, from the writing process and mechanics to rhetorical modes and the research paper. The material devoted to grammar, punctuation and usage is well organized and fairly thorough. While very brief, the sub-divided units on punctuation could be more developed. That said, too much textual explanation and not enough modeling can be a real turn off for students struggling with these mechanical issues. One cannot defer to the text for teaching. The rhetorical modes are equitably covered, though persuasion might welcome more attention and development. For a basic college composition text, this text certainly suffices.

The information is accurate and consistent with language arts standards for bias and equity. However, the example essays in the back could be more reflective of cultural and class diversity.

The writer does a fine job of using examples (exercises, models, examples, etc.) relevant to students in the near future. With supplemental readings and other OERs, this text will withstand expiration of content for at least three years.

The book's clarity is, perhaps, its greatest strength. The writer is keenly aware of his/her audience, college students who approach writing with an array of aptitudes and attitudes. Chapter 1, for instance, "Introduction to Writing," begins a foundational conversation with the reader, a conversation suitable to and supportive of most college students. The sentence complexity is appropriate for the audience. Also, student readers will appreciate the inclusion of "Tips" for building clarity.

The text is consistent in terms of utilizing and referencing terminology and other sections of the book.. The writer consistently uses and revisits key concepts and terminology (grammar, sentence structure, paragraph development, unity, etc.), reminding the reader that writing is a recursive process involving strategic "layering" of ideas and skills.

Each chapter in Writing for Success can "stand alone" if necessary. Oftentimes, in the interest of responding to differentiated learning styles, instructors must isolate and prescribe content for students' individual writing challenges. This text lends itself to easy access to subheadings for particular reference and reinforcement.

I do appreciate the inclusion of exercises at the end of chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5.

The text's organizational format may be its greatest and only notable weakness. The book begins with a thorough, thoughtful introduction to the writing process by citing fears and misconceptions commonly held by college students. This section of the book is critical to establishing a casual but accurate understanding of the writing process. Then, rather abruptly, succeeding chapters shift to local writing issues relating to writing basics - fragments, punctuation, sentence fluency. Typically, and I would argue more logically and appropriately, these localized writing matters should appear in the back of the text for easy access and reference. Logically, the chapter(s) following the discussion of the writing process should launch the student into the writing process itself.

I had initially downloaded the pdf version of the text, thinking that was the one and only interface for accessing, reading and utilizing the text. However, in a later attempt I was able to access a digital version that is quite easy to navigate. I like the ever-present position of the table of contents for easy point-and-click navigation. The chapters line up sequentially and the display is reader-friendly.

The style and mechanics reflect mastery of grammar and usage.

Again, I would point to the example essays as evidence of shallow (not necessarily insensitive) attention to cultural and class diversity. Were I to use this text, I would supplement the example essays with models reflective of wider cultural experiences (class, gender, race, LGBT).

Writing for Success is what it says it is, a book that provides essential instruction in how to approach and embark on the writing process. It provides a basic review of grammar and usage that probably would require additional instruction and opportunities for practice. A college writing instructor who usually defaults to his or her favorite and reliable "bag of tricks" would find this open text very useful for foundational instruction.

Thanks for this opportunity to review an open text in the Creative Commons.

Paul Carney

Reviewed by William Wells, Instructor, Metropolitan State University on 8/21/16

This book covers all the topics I would normally cover in a first year composition course and more. I would like to see an effective, preferably interactive, Table of Contents and a glossary. read more

This book covers all the topics I would normally cover in a first year composition course and more. I would like to see an effective, preferably interactive, Table of Contents and a glossary.

The content is extremely accurate and well-articulated.

This book will likely be useful until we communicate exclusively with emoticons. Necessary updates should be fairly easy to integrate.

Clear and well-written for its audience.

The text is generally consistent in tone and framework and uniformly consistent in terminology.

The text appears as of it would be easily adaptable as modules.

Some of the topics seem slightly out of place, but it has a clear structure.

The text appears to have several broken links, particularly in the beginning, in the .pdf version.

I had some questions about word usage--particularly the heading of "Dos" and "Don'ts" which, to my eye, looks funny. I would probably go with "Do's and Dont's."

The text does not seem culturally insensitive and makes an overt attempt to accommodate those students with differences in learning styles.

I will be giving it a try in my next class.

Reviewed by Michelle Robbins, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

Writing for Success includes all the topics I cover in a developmental writing class, plus a large chunk on research papers. It covers grammar and constructing paragraphs and essays in a comprehensive manner. For developmental writing, I did... read more

Writing for Success includes all the topics I cover in a developmental writing class, plus a large chunk on research papers. It covers grammar and constructing paragraphs and essays in a comprehensive manner.

For developmental writing, I did find that Chapter 2 was a bit light on the parts of speech. For instance, in one exercise students must identify adverbs and adjectives, but there is no real explanation of them first. However, the sentence practice in regard to subjects, verbs, and independent clauses was solid.

Chapter 6 on purpose, tone, audience, and content was excellent. I haven't seen those elements addressed in quite the same way (sometimes barely at all) in other textbooks I have used.

I was also pleased with the links to articles and essays. (More on this in relevance and cultural relevance.)

Content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased. The author includes a variety of links to additional readings and does an excellent job of covering different sides of an issue. For instance, he is sure to link to articles arguing both for and against the use of torture.

Because grammar, language, and writing change fairly slowly, the content here is relevant and lasting. Some articles may become dated, but those are easy to change. Many of them won't need to be replaced anyway because, regardless of their dates, they are still good examples (and, obviously, in writing and literature older works are critical to examine). One of the sample essays was written in 1994. Certainly our outlooks on the material has changed (the role of wives), but the piece is still a good (and creative) example of a definition essay--and fodder for discussion.

The text is clear and accessible for upper-level remedial students and still works for 100-level courses. The student examples are useful, but a few of them were not especially compelling or strong examples and could be replaced.

It is consistent. I thought the repetition of sections such as "writing at work" and "key takeaways" were helpful for students absorbing a lot of information.

The organization of sections made the text easy to follow. At first I thought it would be better organized by integrating the writing samples in the last chapter into the instructional chapters, but ultimately, I found that grouping the types of content (grammar in one area, writing instruction in one, samples in another, and so on) made accessing content easier--especially because they are also cross-referenced within the chapters.

Much of the time, I want my students to access different topics simultaneously, so I found the organization here to work fine. The chapters and sub-sections are clear, so it is easy to move between them.

I found the cross-referencing of sub-sections to be particularly helpful, as in the chapter on coordination: it refers back to the section on semi-colons and vice versa.

All worked well for me. All graphics were clear, and it was key to be able to magnify the student samples for better readability.

One significant issue is that many of the links to essay examples in Chapter 15 are dead.

I found no errors.

The links to outside sources included cultural variety (and were quite interesting!). Perhaps the examples within the text itself might show more variety.

I was especially impressed by the links to Chapter 15 examples (those that worked); there were blogs, poems, and magazine articles. The variety of source types and authors was excellent, and the pieces themselves were compelling.

Overall, Writing for Success was clearly written, useful, and fairly comprehensive. I would definitely use it in my developmental Writing 90 course. I can also envision using many sections for Writing 80.

Reviewed by Kelsea Jones, Adjunct Instructor, Treasure Valley Community College on 1/7/16

McLean's text is surprisingly comprehensive, covering topics from reading and study strategies, to grammar, to writing paragraphs and essays, to research. While some of this material would be spot-on for first year composition, I feel as though... read more

McLean's text is surprisingly comprehensive, covering topics from reading and study strategies, to grammar, to writing paragraphs and essays, to research. While some of this material would be spot-on for first year composition, I feel as though most of the strategies are more appropriate for developmental composition courses (like WR 115: Intro to College Writing in the Oregon system).

The major downside of this text is that there is no Table of Contents or index for this 600+ page book.

The information in the text appears to accurate, unbiased, and very detailed.

The text makes use of sentence and essay examples that are relevant and that will not have to be constantly updated. The main pieces of information in this text that would need to be updated are the APA and MLA style guides; however, both guides follow the most recent editions. Otherwise, the links provided in the text, such as those to the Purdue OWL, may need the most monitoring and updating.

The writing style of this text is accessible and conversational. Terms are introduced with examples, including some excellent graphic organizers, before they are used in the text, and the terminology is consistent throughout.

There is a consistent framework in each chapter: learning objectives are listed, information is presented with tips and examples, and the information is summarized in a "Key Takeaways" box.

The text is divided into chapters and sub-sections that could be divided into smaller reading sections or reorganized to fit individual course needs. Instructors could take or leave any of the content without confusing their students.

The text is organized so that students can build upon their skills, from reading and studying all the way to researching and making presentations; in that way, it is a clearly organized and structured text. However, this organization is what makes the text more appropriate for developmental writing courses than first year composition courses. The reading, studying, and grammar sections of the text could easily be organized into appendices at the back of the book to act as supplemental material rather than the meat of the text.

Interface rating: 2

There are a few confusing interface issues with this version of the text: 1) None of the paragraphs are indented, which makes skimming the text difficult. 2) The learning objectives and tips in the text are set off in a light gray color that is easy to miss while scrolling through the pages; the blue and green colors chosen for the exercises and key takeaways are much easier to see and read. 3) Several headings for sections, tables, and figures are cut off from the information they introduce. 4) There are no clickable links in the text, table of contents, or index to aid navigation. 5) There is no title page for the text!

The text contains no apparent grammatical errors.

There was no content that was culturally offensive, but I also did not find the text to be particularly inclusive.

Overall, I found this text to be a good Open Educational Resource that offers a real wealth of information about college writing. For all of its interface problems, the text would be easy enough to adapt to either developmental composition courses or first year comp courses. I would recommend this text to instructors interested in using OERs in their classes.

Reviewed by Shawn Osborne, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

The text clearly covers all areas and ideas of the subject at this level and is well organized. A nice addition is that each chapter opens with Learning Objectives and closes with Key Takeaways. read more

The text clearly covers all areas and ideas of the subject at this level and is well organized. A nice addition is that each chapter opens with Learning Objectives and closes with Key Takeaways.

I found the content to be accurate, error-free, and unbiased.

The content is up-to-date and relevant. It is arranged in such a way that any necessary updates should be quite easy to implement.

The text is straight forward and clear.

The terminology and framework of the text is consistent.

The text can be divided into smaller reading sections easily.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear way.

There are no interface issues. The images/charts and other display features are well placed and bring clarity to the learning point.

There are no grammatical errors in the text.

The text is culturally relevant.

Chapter 5: Help for English Language Learners and Chapter 14: Creating Presentations are useful additions to the text. I also appreciate the links to further readings in Chapter 15 and believe this will be very beneficial for students.

Reviewed by Fran Bozarth, Adjunct Professor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This book really covers it all so long as there is no need to address reading fiction - in fact, it has way more than I would be able to use in a term! However, it appears to be appropriate for a semester course, or for two terms of... read more

This book really covers it all so long as there is no need to address reading fiction - in fact, it has way more than I would be able to use in a term! However, it appears to be appropriate for a semester course, or for two terms of quarter-length courses.

Subjects are covered appropriately, although I don't know that students would find all of it particularly engaging - use of this material would be VERY reliant upon an effective, engaging instructor.

At our college we have the additional course goal of requiring some understanding of reading fiction, and an instructor utilizing this book would need to supplement for it.

While the Table of Contents is very clear, there is no index or glossary.

The content in this book is consistent with the goals of most Reading/Writing/Study Skills/College Success courses I have encountered. It seems to be error-free, and the author did a particularly good job of projecting no biases that I could detect.

The content related to this text has remained fairly static for decades, though there have been some developments in the past few decades regarding holding students more accountable for knowing their learning styles, and for constructing meaning with connections to their own experiences. This book addresses the basic, standard content, and nicely brings in opportunities for students to better understand themselves as learners. Again, this will depend heavily upon the instructor and their ability to engage students.

Some of the exercises and examples may become obsolete if there are any major technological changes in our society (for example, if email is suddenly abandoned in favor of something else.) However, I believe that such updates would be quite easy to implement given the use of a simple "Find & Replace" feature.

Clarity is a strong suit for this text. I did not locate any portion of the book that lacked clarity. Context was provided for examples of poor writing as well as for strong writing. Context was also provided for any specialized language.

The book is extremely consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

The framework utilizes a "here is what you will learn" type of bulleted list, followed by sections that match the bulleted list, with examples where appropriate, and exercises at the end of the chapter. The end of the book includes not only a full-text example of each type of essay, but also provides links to additional examples written by often well-known and well-regarded authors.

The structure of the overall text is appropriate, and logical. I really appreciate that exercises aren't just randomly thrown in, as many published textbooks often do.

The text is easily readable, but I find that the layout of the pages can cause the text and sections to run together. More effective use of headings and subheadings would make this easier for students to follow. Additionally, there isn't an easily discernible break between chapters/sections. I would very much like to see more solid page breaks (title pages perhaps?) at the beginning of each chapter/section. Given the learning styles assessment at the beginning of the book, it would be appropriate to at least include some icons that match each section - for example the "Key Take Aways " could have a key icon. Some suggestions for students regarding how they can apply this using their unique learning styles might be helpful as well. Otherwise, that learning style information seems to be unrelated from the students' point of view.

The links in the PDF did not seem to work. I don't know if I need to consider looking at this material in a different format in order to use the in-text links. (In other words, I don't know if it's me or if it's the text or the technology or what....)

The topics in the text are presented in a very appropriate fashion, with concepts building in a logical way, one upon the next. Very nicely scaffolded!

The interface seemed to be working correctly. I was able to read everything, and things seemed to be correctly placed. I was not sure if the blue text was supposed to be linked. I was unable to click it and go to any links (which were typically references to other chapters within the text, so it wouldn't be impossible to locate those items - just tedious.)

The text appears to have been impeccably edited. All of the writing lesson content was modeled within the text. Items that were incorrect were clearly labeled as being examples of poor writing, or were clearly used for the purpose of applying identification and editing skills.

This text appears to be quite sterile when it comes to cultural sensitivity. Given the audience, the examples are typically American with some culturally diverse names thrown in. The examples given weren't particularly indicative of one race, ethnicity or background or another. In some ways, I am thankful for the lack of contrived cultural sensitivity. I didn't note anything that would create a barrier to culturally diverse populations, other than the assumptions that are made based upon american culture (such as the notion that we have all had a job at one time or another, or at least have some understanding of the concept of employment.)

This book has much to offer. The authors did an excellent job of including the content that is consistent with standard reading/writing/study skill content. I think it will be very workable and pliable for use by instructors who chose it.

Reviewed by Kimberly Gutierrez, Assistant Professor of English, Bismarck State College on 1/7/16

One of the classes I teach is a freshman composition writing lab that focuses on sentence level errors and sentence clarity. This is a super resource for that type of class. The book contains all sentence, grammar and mechanics concepts that are... read more

One of the classes I teach is a freshman composition writing lab that focuses on sentence level errors and sentence clarity. This is a super resource for that type of class. The book contains all sentence, grammar and mechanics concepts that are essential to teaching students to recognize and repair sentence-level errors. The Table of Contents clearly outlines all of the all of the component of the book. As far as being the main source for a first semester freshman composition class, if I used it, I would certainly supplement it with more readings, but for freshman composition sentence level instruction, this book is very thorough. My comprehensive rating reflects that particular focus.

The descriptions of the concepts are very detailed, and these descriptions are very accurate, explaining the concept with correct sample sentences.

Since the primary focus of this book is the grammatical concepts that impact sentence issues, the text will not necessarily need updating. Of course, MLA formatting guidelines do change, so these changes will will need to be updated within the book, but the general sentence concepts presented in the majority of the book will not soon become obsolete.

All portions of the book are very clearly presented. Grammar can be confusing to first semester freshman composition students, but the explanations are clearly presented. Examples are clearly connected to the grammar explanations.

Terminology is consistent within the text. Within the framework of a composition lab class, this text is consistent, covering all essential components covered in the course scope.

The clarity with how the concepts are presented in the Table of Contents allows instructors to pick and choose which the concepts will be presented and the order of presentation.

The book has a clear organizational flow (considering that I would use this book for a composition lab that has a sentence practice focus). The sentence concepts build logically on each other.

No interface issues occur when accessing the chapters, and there are no display features that distract the reader. The lessons are presented very clearly, and the practice exercises are easy to follow.

The grammar lessons are error free.

The practice sentences do not contain an culturally biased material.

This is a text that I would consider using for a composition lab course (sentence practice focus). I would also consider using the text for first semester freshman composition, but using the text for that type of course would require finding supplemental readings.

Reviewed by Brandy Hoffmann, English Instructor, Central Lakes College on 1/7/16

Writing for Success offers a variety of sections that could be extracted as resources/readings for a first year writing course. In other words, despite some weaknesses, this text serves the function of an OER, and parts of it could be utilized... read more

Writing for Success offers a variety of sections that could be extracted as resources/readings for a first year writing course. In other words, despite some weaknesses, this text serves the function of an OER, and parts of it could be utilized widely. Overall, I would not feel comfortable using this as a primary text to teach rhetorical modes, including argumentative research writing, but I would use it as a supplementary text.

Strengths: I found the coverage of the following subjects to be generally effective: the overall writing process; the revision process (with exercises, p. 470); the editing process (with exercises, p. 476); thesis development (with samples of weak/strong, Chapter 9); paragraphing and topic sentences (with models of different types of paragraphs--summary/analysis/synthesis/evaluation, Chapter 6); sentence fluency and variety (with exercises throughout Chapters 2 and 7); preliminary research and research proposals (Chapter 11); outlining (with samples, Chapter 8), and basic MLA and APA documentation, including an effective discussion of in-text citations on pp. 501-503.

I want to point out the overall usefulness of the exercises offered throughout this text (adding value to the text, since practical exercises for college writing instruction can be hard to come by). I also appreciated the beginnings of chapters, which effectively addressed the questioning student and established the context.

Weaknesses: Viewed as a whole, the text struggles in terms of audience and purpose, organization of content, and content selection and emphasis. The text emphasizes some extraneous subjects while understating other topics that would be important to many composition courses. For example, for a composition course built on rhetorical modes—narration, description, illustration, argumentation, etc.--this textbook offers only a short overview of each. It also offers a few models and links to outside readings, but it doesn't include anything on composing annotated bibliographies, rhetorical analysis essays, critical reviews, or literature reviews. There is an overview on how to write a research paper, but the discussion on how to integrate sources effectively - quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing - is somewhat weak, and the discussion of plagiarism is limited.

The text offers an extensive section on study skills (in chapter 1), which seemed misplaced in this text - unless it was modified to address study strategies for a writing course, specifically (for example, rather than models of lecture "note taking," how about models of research note-taking in chapter 11; and instead of comparing general high school and college assignments, compare writing assignments specifically). I would recommend an overall reorganization of the text, moving chapter 8 (writing process) toward the front, for example, while moving chapters 2 (sentences), 3 (punctuation), 4 (words), and 5 (ELL) toward the end--to emphasize higher order concerns, first; lower order concerns, second.

I appreciate the attempt to address workplace writing as well as academic or in-school writing, but I found the brief "Writing at Work" sidebars a bit forced, possibly distracting, and unnecessary (e.g. pp. 224-225; p. 348). The attempt to include a pseudo student to shed light on the subject is sometimes helpful (Mariah, Chapter 8) but sometimes forced and not developed enough to be useful (Crystal, Chapter 1). The brief bits on "collaboration" throughout the text could be deleted- not developed enough to be useful. There is no index or glossary, and in the PDF I was using there was no table of contents, though this is available elsewhere. Despite these weaknesses, there are many reasons to use this text, as outlined under "Strengths" above.

Overall, this is an accurate and unbiased text. There will always be subjectivity in the delivery of academic writing advice because of varying preferences and changing ideas about what is appropriate or inappropriate. I tend to disagree with the following suggestions or omissions offered in this text: suggestion (through models that indicate 3 points to support a thesis) that a 5-paragraph essay is still the go-to formula for college writing in (Chapter 9); suggestion that a thesis is always one sentence; suggestion that it's a good idea to search for a random quote for your introduction online (p. 361); omitting any reference to intentional sentence fragments; omitting idea that contractions can be used in academic writing (in certain instances); omitting clear attribution and documentation in the summary on p. 220 apart from the opening signal phrase--not the best summary sample; the suggestion that a topic sentence begins an essay or article (p. 233), which seems misleading.

Writing advice tends to be timeless, to an extent, so there aren't big concerns that the content will become outdated. The author avoided pop culture and current event references, which was smart. The only suggestion would be to modify the text to better address new challenges and innovations in writing genres/writing instruction - perhaps including a chapter on multimodal writing and online writing toward the end of the text. (The use of "trade books" in Chapter 1 seems outdated, not fully defined.)

Overall, I found the writing to be very effective - definitely student-friendly yet not patronizing and still sophisticated. The writer avoided convoluted, wordy prose, and wrote in a tone appropriately formal yet conversational and relatable.

Yes, despite the overall issues with content organization and selection, which I address elsewhere, I found the text to be internally conistent with terminology and framework.

Yes, this text is easily divisible into smaller reading assignment, given the breakdown of subsectios within each chapter and the inclusion of exercise sections, etc. There are some issues with headers/interface, depending on the version of the text used, addressed in interface section.The text did not seem self-referential.

As stated above, I would recommend an overall reorganization of the text, moving chapter 8 (writing process) toward the front, for example, while moving chapters 2 (sentences), 3 (punctuation), 4 (words), and 5 (ELL) toward the end--to emphasize higher order concerns, first; lower order concerns, second.

Including Learning Objectives at the beginning of each chapter is helpful, allowing easy alignment with course objectives; the "key takeaways" at the end of each chapter are also helpful.

Please note: I was evaluating a downloaded PDF version of the text, so experience may be different in a different mode. Throughout the text, headings/labels can be difficult to distinguish from one another, making it challenging to follow the hierarchy/logic of the text. The organization of the "Reading Strategies" section in Chapter 1 was a bit confusing, listing the "three broad categories" of strategies but then failing to organize section headings that aligned. On p. 10, I would recommend moving "Ask and answer questions" before "Summarize."

For the "tips" offered throughout the text, it would be helpful if they were labeled in some way (e.g. "Tips: Succeeding in Timed Writings," p. 34). I would suggest eliminating the "Writing at Work" sidebars but turning some of these into tips (e.g. "Tips: Emailing Your Professor," p. 17). The paragraph on p. 38 that lists all chapters seems unnecessary and overwhelming. In the discussion of the SQ3R Strategy on p. 12, it seems like these steps should be handled separately with headings. The four academic purposes in Chapter 6 should be obviously highlighted at the beginning of the section rather than listed in the middle of the paragraph without emphasis (p. 217). On p. 230, "6.12" is referenced but does not exist? Use of "for this assignment" on p. 461 seems misleading.

Also, the font size, heading placement, spacing, indenting, and bullet formatting are all a bit awkward throughout; the text could be cleaned up for improved design and readability, though these issues do not detract largely from the text's usability.

Please note: I was evaluating a downloaded PDF version of the text, so experience may be different in a different mode. I located a few interface issues in my reading of the text: On p. 238+ the text keeps referring to underlined topic sentences, but they are not underlined. On p. 244 the text refers to underlined transitional words, but they are also not underlined.

Certain references to other sections in the text are colored in a way that makes them seem as if you could click on a link and be carried to a different section of the text, but this didn’t function, at least not in the PDF that I had downloaded (such as “see Chapter 12 ‘Writing a Research Paper’” on p. 10).

It would be helpful if there was a repeat of the chapter title on the top of each page of the text.

I located the following dead links in the PDF that I downloaded:

http://www.sunywcc.edu/LIBRARY/research/MLA_APA_08.03.10.pdf http://www.writing.ku.edu/guides p. 546

http://www.forsyth.k12.ga.us/132320728102659810/lib/132320728102659810/_files/Alexie,_Sherman_-_Indian_Education_TEXT.rtf http://www.pfeonyx.com/alliance/IndianCollection/Alexie2.pdf p. 596

http://teachers.sduhsd.k12.ca.us/mcunningham/grapes/mother%20tounge.pdf http://learning.swc.hccs.edu/members/donna.gordon/sum-2010-engl-1301-5-wk-crn-33454/1301-reading-block-crn-33454/Tan_Mother%20Tongue.pdf http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2000/on_the_internet_theres_no_place_to_hide p. 602

http://api.ning.com/files/-3HiJ651xE-rSj4Q4WeH-*f0NQJGyoXgI8AR*3Rat-AyxVuVAgEE bfbuyGbTu9gpi7z3gT4jqd52W3fBsDRfFGgEgLxB5wO4/GetItRight.PrivatizeExecutionsArthurMiller.pdf p. 605

http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everythingsanargument4e/content/cat_020/Brady_I_Want_a_Wife.pdf http://www.usd305.com/212720101692451310/lib/212720101692451310/20100429123836146.pdf p. 607

http://eec.edc.org/cwis_docs/NEWS_ARTICLES_JOURNALS/Laird_Ellen.pdf http://depedia.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=I%27m_your_teacher%2C_not_your_Internet-Service_Provider p. 609

http://depedia.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=I%27m_your_teacher%2C_not_your_Internet-Service_Provider http://www.alandershowitz.com/publications/docs/torturewarrants.html p. 613

The title and link has changed for article p. 598: should be http://www.newsweek.com/dark-side-web-fame-93505 List of "Sources" on p. 568 awkward too... not sure links are directing to intended spot.

I located a few mechanical/sentence-level errors: p. 2 in Preface, 2nd paragraph, the list with "instruction in steps, builds writing, reading, and critical..." could use semicolons for clearer listing/separation of items. p. 166 wording issue: "jargon a type" p. 202, 213, 275, 340, 366 spacing errors: "errors within, at and on"; "butit"; "thanswimming"; "Fencessymoblize"; "Writingis"; p. 208 lack of consistent periods at end of phrases in Table 5.16 p. 300 words/punctuation missing: "For example, for every Roman numeral I, there must be a For every A, there must be a B."

The text did not seem culturally insensitive or offensive and seemed usable by a wide audience of students.

I plan on using segments of this text in future writing courses, and I am grateful for the availability of OER texts like this one. So, despite any weaknesses addressed, this is still a valuable resource for faculty who are trying to lower the barriers to student success in their classrooms through the adoption of OER resources. I recommend the text, but study it carefully to determine how it will be used in your specific writing courses. It is probably best used as a supplementary text.

Reviewed by Michelle Cristiani, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

What I look for in a writing text at this level is flow from simple to complex: word placement and part of speech up through essays. This text follows that format beautifully. One glaring omission is fragment and run-on work. This is such a... read more

What I look for in a writing text at this level is flow from simple to complex: word placement and part of speech up through essays. This text follows that format beautifully. One glaring omission is fragment and run-on work. This is such a common issue at this level. I would also want to see more transition from sentence to paragraph, not just paragraph to essay. There are a couple of underdeveloped sections as the topics grow in detail: for example, nine rhetorical modes are discussed, which is a wide array, but within each section there is not much elaboration or examples. But overall, there are appropriate exercises after concepts are introduced. The text provides a solid framework for instructors to build upon as they see fit. The table of contents are easy to navigate and generally well-organized. I do find chapter 8 misplaced, though – it is titled ‘how do I begin.’ Because it describes the writing process from prewrite to edit it seems sensible to place it closer to the beginning. I especially appreciate the inclusion of research and citation – it is well-done.

The lessons and examples are true to the field. The structure mirrors most other texts in organization and usage. The research and citation sections are more-or-less current.

Longevity is easy to attain with this discipline because grammar/writing rules are tried and true...but the organization of this text makes it a true 'open' resource. One could update or mold portions into a larger discussion on grammar concepts like punctuation, or writing for description. The APA and MLA sections are vague enough as to not need much updates as the rules change. The links work. I see at least one MLA rule that has changed since 2009, but it's relatively minor, and easily updated.

Grammar-heavy texts can be tricky for students because there are so many labels, like 'rhetorical mode,' that they know the definitions of, but have not heard the terms themselves. This text keeps that jargon to a minimum, so that students can focus on the concept and not the vocabulary. Subject-verb agreement is the least accessible, but that is often difficult to explain for any text, and the exercises support the instruction. Parallelism could be defined more cleanly. The research section is quite clear. The learning objectives are clear enough as to be useful tools themselves.

Exercises are often post-concept and always post-chapter. Learning objectives are defined at the beginning of each section. Each section resembles the others, and for that reason can be easily modulated - but there are no clear cumulative assignments.

These chapters can stand alone quite easily. This works especially well for instructors like myself who teach grammar concepts side-by-side with writing concepts - they will pair closely in this model. The end-of-chapter exercises could easily be used as pretests as well as post-tests. Chapter 13 on research documentation is slightly self-referential, but the sections are unlikely to be taught separately and it doesn't feel overdone.

As previously mentioned, chapter 8 on getting started might be moved forward. Ideally the text would pair the writing process stages directly with modes, as they do change given the purpose...but since this might made the text less modular I understand the vision behind its generality. The reading examples might be closer to the chapter on modes, instead of at the end after research. Within chapters, flow is sensible and straightforward.

The layout and structure is simple and clean. Charts keep their shape even when window size is minimized. The clear table of contents is navigable by both scroll and click.

Grammar texts especially need to be spotless; I spotted no errors. Most importantly, there is consistency in structure and punctuation, for example in learning objectives from chapter to chapter.

Most important in this volume are the sample essay readings. Linked and cited authors include various time periods and controversial yet not sensitive topics. The text is to be commended for inclusion of essays from at least five different races and a variety of worldviews.

A solid framework and foundation for essay writing. The book could be used for a class specifically about writing, or as a companion to another course. Modules on research and citation are of specific relevance to a variety of content areas, and the extra essays in the final chapter can inspire debate and argument both in writing and verbal discussion.

Reviewed by Mary Sylwester, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This textbook is amazingly comprehensive--probably more than any teacher actually wants. It covers strategies for success in college, reading, grammar, spelling, drafting, revising, thesis statements, and various rhetorical modes. Unfortunately,... read more

This textbook is amazingly comprehensive--probably more than any teacher actually wants. It covers strategies for success in college, reading, grammar, spelling, drafting, revising, thesis statements, and various rhetorical modes. Unfortunately, it does not include an index. The table of contents is fairly detailed, however.

The content is accurate: rules for spelling and punctuation and general rhetorical content are presented as any writing instructor would expect. More explanation about rules for grammar and punctuation would be nice: for example, the explanation of the dash is "to set off information in a sentence for emphasis." This is accurate, but not the whole story.

The main portions of this text will not become outdated. The section on readings, however, is already problematic. The book offers one reading example per mode, and then others as links. Just in a quick survey of links in two of the rhetorical modes, I found five that were no longer operational. To be fair, the book does try to get around that problem with multiple link sources for the same essay, but I found this strategy confusing, as it tends to look as if there are more readings available than actually are present. In the future, as with any textbook including readings, there will be a need to provide up-to-date topics.

I found the book very readable. There is little or no jargon. This book would be appropriate for a freshman in college.

The page design is consistent: examples and exercises are similarly formatted and easy to locate. The author uses fictional student names to illustrate how some principles might be applied in real life.

In the "Exercise" sections, the book does refer the studen to other parts of the chapters. All the examples I found, however, referred the student to sections within the same chapter and not out to other chapters of the book. For example, in the Exercises for Ch. 8, the instructions say: "Working in a peer-review group of four, go to Section 8.3 “Drafting” and reread the draft of the first two body paragraphs . . . ."

This book starts with strategies for success, which seems reasonable, but then has a giant section about sentence grammar & spelling before even getting to writing paragraphs. "Refining Your Writing" comes before "How Do I Begin?" which seems backwards. The topic of thesis statements does not come up until Chapter 9, which seems terribly late. If I were teaching from this text, I would probably skip from Chapter 1 to Chapter 6, and use Chapters 2-5 (grammar and spelling) as references.

The display seems fine: I read it online rather than downloading. One benefit to the online format is the search window at the top, which offers a kind of substitute for indexing.

The only problem I ran into was that several links to the readings in Chapter 15 were nonfunctional.

The text contains no grammatical errors.

Student example names used seem to cover a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but most are women's names. Readings cover a wide spectrum of ethnicities. For example, links to readings in the "Narrative Essay" section include Chicano, Russian Jewish, and Native American.

This is generally a well written textbook. However, there are two problems that instructors will encounter in using it: (1) it is not organized pedagogically, so instructors will need to consider the order of readings carefully, and not just move chapter by chapter through the book. (2) many links to readings are not functional, so instructors will need to be aware of that and either find new links or provide their own readings.

Finally, I have grave reservations about the ethics of using weblinks for essentially all the current readings in a textbook. I understand that using links in an online class for one-time readings is fine, but many of these links (especially those that remain functional) are to publications that have paying subscribers, such as The New Yorker. I would feel better about using a textbook that actually had permission to use other writers' work as a permanent fixture of the book.

Reviewed by Laura Sanders, Instructor, Portland Community College on 1/7/16

This text covers a range of topics students might need while building reading, critical thinking, research, and writing skills in developmental to upper division courses. read more

This text covers a range of topics students might need while building reading, critical thinking, research, and writing skills in developmental to upper division courses.

I see no evidence of inaccurate, erroneous, or biased content.

I believe it is safe to say that this book will be useful for a long time. While APA and MLA style may change and grammar rules may soften or transform, this book would be easy to update.

The book is accessible to students entering a course with various levels of academic preparation and experience.

Each chapter begins with learning objectives and ends with takeaways. Throughout each chapter, there are charts and exercises to clarify and emphasize key content.

Clearly marked sections focus on student success strategies, grammar and punctuation, and approaches to composition. Instructors could easily select the chapters most relevant to individual reading and writing courses at all levels.

The book is structured very well. It begins with reading strategies and helping students transition from a high school to college learning environment. It moves into sentence-level techniques, including specific areas for English language learners. The text also includes sections on the writing process, rhetoric, research, documentation, and presentation.

The text is easy to navigate.

I do not see any grammatical errors.

While I do not see anything I consider offensive, I do believe few of my students would "see themselves" in this text. The sample names (like "Steve" and "Jones") and sample essay topics (baseball, video game addiction) do not suggest a recognition of the broad cultural diversity instructors encounter in college classrooms today. For me, this lack of inclusiveness marks the main weakness of this text.

I enjoyed reviewing the text and plan to assign a few chapters to my online writing students.

Reviewed by Amy Forester, Instructor, Clackamas Community College and Portland Community College on 1/7/16

The text is very comprehensive. There are sections that are useful for many different writing levels, from students in need of grammar and punctuation instruction to research writing. Also, each section is nicely developed with examples,... read more

The text is very comprehensive. There are sections that are useful for many different writing levels, from students in need of grammar and punctuation instruction to research writing. Also, each section is nicely developed with examples, explanations, and exercises.

The text is very accurate. It gives clear and easy-to-read instruction on many topics.

This text has great longevity. I can imagine using it for many years because the examples are not time-sensitive. This is a great book to accompany a reading list or anthology.

This is one of the first things I noticed about the text. I really like the tone and style of the writing. It is clear and does not over-complicate ideas. The author clearly has experience with first-year writing students because it is written in a clear, accessible way.

I appreciate the consistency of this text. The terminology is direct and logical, and students will find it easy to get a broader understanding of a topic because the text provides links to other parts of the text where the term is mentioned. Also, the chapter organization is perfect for first-year students who do not want long, meandering chapters.

I will be using this book in modules for different writing classes. For example, it is easy to teach the grammar and punctuation sections in a remedial course and leave them out in research writing courses. Each section is very well developed.

The topics are nicely organized in this text. Each chapter has the same features, so students know what to expect. I am particularly impressed with the section Writing at Work, which gives students a sense for how each strategy is used in the workplace.

Overall, the interface is very easy to read. The one improvement that should be made is, at least in my screen view, the student writing samples are hard to read because they are small and in a difficult font.

It is grammatically correct.

The text is not culturally insensitive. It seems inclusive in its examples.

I am particularly impressed with the grammar and punctuation chapters. I have used many different books to teach these topics, and have found that they are often explained in complicated, technical language. I will definitely use these chapters in my classes.

Reviewed by Katie McCurdie, Instructor, Portland State University on 1/7/16

The comprehensiveness of this text is very impressive. At 600 pages, it covers so many aspects of college writing, from grammar to essay writing to creating presentations, that pieces of this text would surely be useful for a wide variety of... read more

The comprehensiveness of this text is very impressive. At 600 pages, it covers so many aspects of college writing, from grammar to essay writing to creating presentations, that pieces of this text would surely be useful for a wide variety of courses, but it is probably best suited to a first-year composition course. The first chapter provides a good introduction to writing in college, which includes a comparison to writing assignments in high school, along with more general advice on succeeding in college. This would be useful for just about any student entering an American university. It would also aid international students in understanding the expectations surrounding reading and writing as they transition from schools in their home country, where expectations, amount of coursework, and types of assessments can be drastically different. The next four chapters focus on sentence-level language issues: sentence structure, punctuation, vocabulary, and a whole grammar chapter for English language learners. These chapters could provide a great introduction to or review of the basics of English grammar, as well as the metalanguage needed to talk about grammar. In fact, I could see all four of the chapters begin useful for English language learners at intermediate and advanced levels. Chapters six through thirteen cover writing, from paragraphs to research papers, and fourteen focuses on presentations. Short exercises immediately reinforce the content in a variety of ways, such as by editing, completing sentences, and identifying and labeling grammar items. The amount of exercises might be enough for relatively advanced users of English, but those at a lower level would likely need additional exercises from another source. The “Writing Application” exercises at the end of most chapter sections provide opportunities for students to use what they’ve learned in short writing activities. In addition, there are end-of-chapter exercises for more practice.

Throughout the text, there is a combined focus on writing for academic purposes and writing in the real world. Examples and exercises reinforce this with work emails, business letters, job descriptions, cover letters, advertisements, and personal narratives and essays. This should send the message to students that the skills they are learning will be applied to all areas of their lives.

Although this text hasn’t reinvented the wheel in terms of writing instruction, it does present some novel ways to approach certain topics. For instance, there is a section in Chapter 2 on identifying and correcting fragments and run-ons that would potentially be very helpful for both native and non-native writers. It includes flow charts that students could use on their own to aid them in finding and fixing these all too common sentence structure errors in their own writing – an excellent tool to help students move towards becoming independent writers.

The table of contents is detailed and descriptive, but is not included in the pdf version.

I found the content to be mostly accurate. However, there are a couple places where the labeling of grammar items seemed incorrect or inconsistent to me. For instance, in Chapter 2, the text introduces some sentence structure basics including prepositional phrases (“At night,” “In the beginning,” etc.). However, when discussing how to fix fragments that begin with prepositional phrases a few pages later, the example sentences do not actually contain them; instead, they begin with adverb clauses or phrases (“After walking all day…”). For a native writer, distinguishing between these two different structures might not be crucial since the point here is fixing the fragment error. If using this text with English language learners, however, the discrepancy could cause confusion.

Information and example essays seem relevant and up-to-date although the chapter on MLA and APA documentation will have to be updated in the future. Updates should be easy to perform due to the text’s modularity.

The language used in the text is very easy to understand and approachable. Examples mostly consist of everyday language and situations or general academic vocabulary.

The text seems consistent to me except for the grammar terminology error I mentioned above.

This text seems made to be divided into smaller parts to be covered individually or even in a different order. Although the text does refer to itself at times, it does not rely on these references to convey information clearly and completely. Therefore, I noticed some sections of the text that necessarily repeat information from previous sections so as to stand alone as an independent lesson.

I appreciate how the book is organized, beginning with the introduction to college writing, which orients students to what they’ll be doing and why. I think it was a good choice to then put the grammar chapters next, before getting into the writing chapters. Writing books I’ve used tend to stick the grammar instruction at the end of the text or even hide it away in an appendix, but this text encourages students to become proficient writers from the sentence level up. The only part that seems oddly placed to me is Chapter 7, “Refining Your Writing,” which covers sentence variety, coordination and subordination, and parallelism. Also, I agree with another reviewer who said that it would be better if each rhetorical mode were given its own chapter. I never teach nine different modes in one course (maybe two or three), so the modularity would be better if each mode could be separate. On the other hand, I like how research writing is divided into two chapters and covered in detail. This type of writing is so difficult for most students, so it’s nice to have that comprehensive instruction. It’s also great to have the additional chapter at the end with example essays.

The interface is user-friendly with clear headings and sub-headings, logical use of bold text, numbered and bulleted lists, and blocks of subtle color to set off certain pieces of text from the main text. When suitable, information is presented in chart form or inside boxes. The font is highly readable and not distracting. Each chapter has a few main sections that are consistent throughout the text: “Learning Objectives” at the beginning, “Exercises” sprinkled throughout the chapter, and “Key Takeaways” at the end. There are also small boxes labeled “Tips,” which give advice on succeeding academically, and “Writing at Work,” which offers suggestions on how to use writing in real communication situations. As a result, the set-up of each chapter is predictable, which would theoretically allow teachers and students to fall into a comfortable routine.

One problem I found with the interface is that sometimes the margin sizes are not consistent from one page to the next. For instance, an indented list that begins on one page and continues on the next may not be indented on the second page. This is a small issue and may just be in the pdf version of the text.

I also noticed some navigation mistakes, when the text refers the reader to another part of the text, but it’s not the intended part. For example, in the section on fixing run-ons, it says, “For more information on semicolons, see Section 2.4.2 ‘Capitalize Proper Nouns’. However, there is nothing about semicolons in this section; this would most likely be in Chapter 3, which covers punctuation.

I did not see any errors.

I did not notice anything culturally insensitive, and there are some inclusive examples.

Overall, I find this text to be thoughtfully written, and I’d definitely consider using it for upper level writing & grammar-focused courses in the Intensive English Program.

Reviewed by Kirk Perry, Adjunct Instructor, Portland Community College - Cascade on 1/7/16

This textbook aspires to be a combined grammar book and reader. It covers all the appropriate areas, but the coverage is a bit thin when it comes to examples. read more

This textbook aspires to be a combined grammar book and reader. It covers all the appropriate areas, but the coverage is a bit thin when it comes to examples.

As far as I can tell.

The instructional content is very plain and basic; it will be sure to bore students for decades to come.

The readings (links) are good quality and likely to be useful for a decade or so.

Very clear and plain language--but again, not enough examples.

If anything, this text could be more technical. I think it is unhelpful to describe subordinating conjunctions as "dependent words." This strikes me as vague and misleading.

Yes, quite consistent.

Yes, it is effectively modular. Helpful subheadings and sections. There are lists and diagrams, but some sections can be a bit too text-y (dense paragraphs).

Yes: overview > grammar > process > writing modes > research > citation.

However, the example essays for the modes come in the final chapter. There is no good reason why "Chapter 10: Modes" could not be merged with "Chapter 15: Readings: Examples of Essays"--particularly because most of the examples are links.

Appears good.

Didn't notice any problems.

The example essay links provide a variety of ethnic/cultural perspectives.

This book is helpful but tries to do a bit too much--being both a grammar and a reader. It needs more examples of everything: run-on sentences, sense details, example essays, etc.

To adopt this for a course such as WR 115 or WR 121, I would have to provide many supplemental readings.

Reviewed by Annie Knepler, University Studies Writing Coordinator, Portland State University on 1/7/16

Writing for Success is quite thorough. It covers everything from sentence structure to the writing process. It has additional sections on creating effective presentations and concludes with sample essays. I could see how instructors could use... read more

Writing for Success is quite thorough. It covers everything from sentence structure to the writing process. It has additional sections on creating effective presentations and concludes with sample essays. I could see how instructors could use various elements of the text and adapt it to their course.

At the same time, it often felt a little too comprehensive, and sometimes seemed to aim for breadth over depth. For example, not much space is devoted to integrating sources and ideas. Learning how to apply sources, and develop your own ideas based on research, is such an important element of college writing. Paraphrasing and integrating source material is complex, and takes a lot of practice. Otherwise, students tend to let the sources speak for them instead of truly conversing with the sources (which is what I would begin to expect of college level students). The text leaves the impression that integrating sources is a straightforward task as opposed to one that involves critical thinking and analytic skills. Overall, I found the research section fairly weak.

I have looked at and worked with several writing texts, and I’m used to ones that either focus on a specific aspect of writing (such as research writing) or have a specific approach. This text tries to be a more general writing text, and it, perhaps, tries to cover too much.

The book strikes me as accurate, thorough, and generally without bias. At the same time, I don’t fully agree with the approach it takes to writing and grammar. The text does a really nice job of explaining certain grammatical elements and providing several examples to demonstrate the idea. However, the text generally treats grammar as rules rather than conventions. These conventions often change or shift over time, just as writing conventions change over time.

Similarly, whereas I appreciated the texts emphasis on writing as a process, Writing for Success does not really highlight the idea that writing can also be a process of discovery for the student. To me, this is an important concept for both learning and writing, and it helps get students excited about the possibilities for college writing. For example, when discussing thesis statements, the book indicates that a writer might end up revising a working thesis to broaden or narrow down their thesis. However, it does not present the possibility that students’ ideas may shift in significant ways as they write, research, and discover ideas. I allow my students to leave themselves open to the idea that their working thesis could change in significant ways as they write.

Overall, for me, it does not adequately emphasize the idea that writing should be both dynamic and purposeful.

The book is designed in a way that makes it easy to update specific details and examples. In general, many of the concepts it covers, such as specific issues students should pay attention to as they edit and revise (such as wordiness, transitions, etc.), will likely remain consistent.

However, I would not characterize the text as particularly relevant given the current conversations in the field of composition and composition pedagogy. In recent years, there has been a much stronger focus on purpose, audience, and genre in relation to writing, and although these concepts are addressed, they are not really emphasized or approached with the degree of complexity I would expect out of a college-level writing course. Writing for Success seems to encourage an expanded version of the five paragraph essay rather than providing students with the tools to recognize multiple approaches to writing. It approaches writing with a step-by-step approach, rather than as a complex task that involves continual critical thinking and problem solving.

Although the text encourages students to apply these ideas to other writing tasks (something I really appreciated about the text), it often implies that the writing they will do in their writing class may not have a clear context or purpose. It even states that students’ “college composition courses will focus on writing for its own sake.”

The writing in the text is very clear and straightforward. It would be helpful for the authors to more clearly define the audience for the book. It strikes me as a text that would be too basic for many first-year college writing courses.

I also found some of the organizational decisions confusing (I address this below under organization/flow).

Consistency rating: 3

The chapters follow a fairly consistent structure in terms of content. They all start by stating objectives, explain the main concepts, review the concepts, and provide exercises. The text also fairly consistently encourages active learning by posing questions for students/readers to consider as they delve into a topic.

To my eyes, there are some inconsistencies in terms of the framework and the message of the text. For example, it opens by framing writing as a challenge, and I was prepared for it to address several of the complexities of college writing. Instead, it goes on to take a fairly formulaic approach to writing, and even implies at times that the five-paragraph essay is a common form for college writing.

The text is broken into clear sections. I’m not sure how well the text would work if assigned from start to finish, but I can see how instructors might select specific chapters for a specific purpose. I usually have a select group of students that might struggle with a certain issue and I would, for example, direct a student that is struggling with commas to that specific section.

I also appreciate the way the is designed to work with other classes that a student might be taking. The exercises often direct students to apply the ideas they’re learning to a piece of writing that they are already working on for another class or to a task they have been assigned in their job.

The structure of the text was, at times, a little confusing. For example, the fact that tone, audience, and purpose are first discussed under a chapter on paragraphs was a little disorienting. Though these elements clearly relate to paragraphs and paragraph structure, they are really a central element of the larger structure and purpose of an essay or paper. Beyond that, in this section the author clearly explains different types of paragraphs, and provides a clear and detailed description of concepts such as analysis and evaluation.

There were a few other choices that did not make sense to me. For example, why are signal phrases and verbs discussed in the section on formatting as opposed to the section on integrating material into texts? That doesn’t really make sense.

My main concern is with the larger structure of the book. It starts by breaking down sentences structure and explaining the parts of the sentence. It seems like these chapters would make more sense in connection to editing since these are issues students should explore as they are editing their work. Most research shows that students more successfully learn grammar and sentence structure when it’s addressed in a specific context (such as their own work). The structure of the book implies that students can “learn” elements of a sentence and then easily apply that to their work.

I read the text in iBook, and the formatting did not always functioned properly. Some of the tables/columns were hard to read, and there were instances where the text referred to underlined sections of the examples, but there was no underline in my version.

I did look at the PDF version, and this did not seem to be an issue.

The book is generally free of errors. I looked at some of the previous reviews, and it seems as though some of the specific errors people noted have already been edited out of the text. I did find one clear typo on page 408 where the word “Thesis” in a title is written “ThesIs.”

The book did not make any statements that were insensitive or inoffensive. At the same time, it also did not address issues of language that relate to culture or gender. So it essentially avoids the topic, which is insensitive in its own way. For instance, it does not deal with issues of language and gender, and in the chapter on pronouns it does not examine the increasingly common use of the singular “they.” I appreciated the section for English language learners, but was a little confused about it’s overall purpose. It did not in any ways address some of the rhetorical issues that multilingual and international students often struggle with, and instead seemed to want to take the place of an English language course. In other words, it seemed as though it was well meant, but not sufficient or clear.

I appreciate that the text encourages students to be not only active readers and writers, but also active students. It emphasizes that they should seek help if they need it, and demonstrates ways to engage with reading.

The lists of words, such as transitional words, were very helpful. My experience is that students benefit greatly from these types of examples. The section on presentation skills was also useful and provided some good tips concerning tone, voice, and connecting with your audience.

I also appreciate the use of examples in the text, and these were generally very helpful. The sample essays at the end were helpful, and I really appreciated all the links to model readings available on the web. Despite the examples, while reading the text, it often feels like there’s a little too much telling students how to write rather than showing.

My main concern is that it wouldn’t work well for a more theme or genre-based writing course, one that worked to place student writing in a specific context. At our university, writing instruction is integrated into yearlong, theme-based courses for first-year students. When I taught composition at a university with a more traditional first-year writing sequence, the courses were theme-based, and students were encouraged to think of their writing as contextualized and purposeful. Writing for Success often seems to assume that writing courses function more as isolated courses where students focus on the structures and processes of putting together expository writing.

As I note above, I think it would be helpful to better define the specific audience for this textbook. It’s certainly not appropriate for the college writing classes I’ve taught or worked with, and it could be that it has a different purpose. A college writing course should introduce students to more complex ways to approach their writing, and get them excited about the possibilities for communicating their ideas. I’m not sure that this text would achieve that goal.

Reviewed by Sara Crickenberger, Instructor, Virginia Tech on 6/10/15

The pdf of the textbook does not provide a table of contents or an index/glossary. It opens with a Preface then jumps right into Chapter 1. These omissions are inconvenient for planning and for both students and instructors trying to locate... read more

The pdf of the textbook does not provide a table of contents or an index/glossary. It opens with a Preface then jumps right into Chapter 1. These omissions are inconvenient for planning and for both students and instructors trying to locate specific material in the 613-page book. However, the textbook covers a wide breadth of material relevant to a first-year writing class, ranging from basic discussion and tips to help students succeed as college-level readers and writers to sample essays employing a variety of rhetorical modes. I likely would not use everything in this textbook, but it contains a great deal of material that I would find useful.

The content appears to be accurate and unbiased. I did not find any factual errors or inconsistencies.

The material in the textbook is up-to-date and relevant. Some examples use historical references, which are essentially timeless. A couple of the sample essays discuss topics such as universal health care and low-carbohydrate diets that may be front page news one day and off the public radar the next, but the material was not dated in a way that made it less valuable as a resource for students. The sample essays are in the last chapter in the book, which could easily be updated with newer essays.

The book is easy to read and clearly speaks to college writing students. The language is accessible, explanations are clear, and instructions are easy to follow. The author defines terms that are specific to the study of language and writing and gives examples illustrating how they are used. After each section students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material by completing exercises based on their reading.

The book uses a consistent framework that includes learning objectives for each section, discussion/explanation of the material, exercises that allow students to practice what they have been reading/learning, tips to make difficult ideas more accessible or reinforce messages, key takeaways to reinforce the learning objectives for each section, and a writing application.

The book is divided nicely into numbered chapters and sections that work well as self-contained units. Each section has clear learning objects, examples, exercises, and a writing application. It would be easy to assign a chapter or section within a chapter with the accompanying examples and exercises for students to compete.

The chapter on Writing for English Language Learners seems a bit oddly placed. Since that material is relevant for only a segment of the student population, I probably would have moved that chapter toward the back of the book with the more specialized content on documentation and presentations rather than between the chapters on word choice and shaping content. However, the content in the ELL chapter does relate closely to word choice and sentence structure, so another instructor might think this is the perfect place for this material.

The biggest problem with navigation in this textbook is the lack of a table of contents and index is. However, I had one other problem with the formatting. The text is double spaced, but paragraphs are not indented and there are no blank lines between paragraphs, so it is difficult to tell where paragraphs break. This is an issue in terms of ease of reading, and it sets a poor example for students who are learning the conventions of mechanics and formatting.

There are a few spacing issues. In some places subheads butt directly against body copy or tables, for instance. And some page breaks cause awkward breaks in exercises, tables, and charts. These are small issues that don't significantly affect the readability or usability.

I found few errors in the book. One issue that I did notice is a problem that is common among my students, so I was especially disappointed to see the error in the text. The author uses "where" in reference to something other than place: "...establish a buddy system where you check in with a friend about school projects" (25).

The text has a few other issues, such as bullet points that don't use parallel verb structures, some use of "to be" constructions that could easily be revised to more active/vivid sentence structures, and some typographical errors, such as "accuratelydid" (92) and "ascrawny" (149). These errors are relatively rare but start to get annoying after a couple of hundred pages.

The book does not contain references that are culturally insensitive or offensive. The author switches between male and female names in examples/exercises and uses names that are reflective of a diverse population.

I am planning to use this book as one of my texts in a first-year writing class next fall. I likely will adapt it a bit by adding a table of contents, indenting paragraphs, correcting mechanical errors, etc. so that it is more functional and serves as a model of the writing and formatting I expect from students. I actually like the double spacing, which most publishers don't use because of space/cost issues. It provides plenty of room for students to annotate the text electronically or on print copies. I am not sure I am up for undertaking indexing.

Reviewed by Kari Steinbach, Instructor, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

The text covers some helpful elements of a first college writing course, such as an overview of several genres of writing assignments, some grammar and usage issues, use of peer review and collaboration in writing, and research strategies. Some... read more

The text covers some helpful elements of a first college writing course, such as an overview of several genres of writing assignments, some grammar and usage issues, use of peer review and collaboration in writing, and research strategies. Some may consider the addition of the study strategy and reading strategy material to be too basic--even for a first year writing course. Without a clear table of contents or index, the organization was difficult to decipher and required paging back and forth throughout the book.

The book appears to be free from any obvious errors. Because of the rapid changes in databases, electronic research strategies, and documentation styles, it is likely that updates will need to be made--but this is the case for any text dealing with research and documentation.

Aside from requiring updates due to documentation and research changes, there may need to be an update of sample essays that have subject matter that may become outdated. Examples of cited sources may become outdated--especially in fields that change quickly.

The use of flow charts to help students understand grammar concepts is helpful. A better use of white space, illustration, font changes, bullets, and color in the design would make the text more visually fluid and more readable. The addition of full text student sample papers to show formatting is very helpful. I also appreciated the list of objectives at the beginning of each chapter.

The text appears to be consistent in terms of terminology and framework.

It would be helpful for the rhetorical mode section to be split into separate chapters, with each genre given more individual emphasis and examples of the strategies required for that genre.

My preference would be to teach grammatical concepts as they come up within the course of writing assignments. I would prefer a text that had grammar covered in an appendix that could be referred to throughout the course and as the issues came up during the writing assignments. I would not teach grammar independent of the writing assignment.

There is a need for a clear table of contents and index.

There are no obvious issues with the book's grammar.

There are no obvious issues of cultural insensitivity in the text.

Reviewed by Jonathan Carlson, Instructor, Composition, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

The first chapter covers many "first year" or "freshmen" tips, best practices ideas and how-to info. Probably good material for the group using this book, but not essential. Table 1.2 is valuable to a student's overall understanding of writing.... read more

The first chapter covers many "first year" or "freshmen" tips, best practices ideas and how-to info. Probably good material for the group using this book, but not essential. Table 1.2 is valuable to a student's overall understanding of writing. Table 8.1 is great! The outline checklist on 301 and 302 is good info. I like the discussion of thesis statements on page 341. It points out significant errors. I appreciate the section on plagiarism. This is such a key issue today, with so much research done online with text that is so easy to copy and paste. I like that the book notes that there is intentional and unintentional plagiarism. I think the reading examples in chapter 15 could be stronger. The compare and contrast essay is quite brief, and it is not organized for easy reading (one massive paragraph and one short paragraph). The cause and effect essay is rather short. I would like to see 3 to 5 page examples - approximations of what I will be expecting my Comp 1 students to write. I feel the persuasive essay is much too brief to be persuasive. Universal health care coverage is a massive and nuanced topic, and to serve it up in two pages seems almost offensive. By the by, the linked essays seems very good. I just think the book needs better, stronger examples of student essays. Overall, I think this is perhaps the most comprehensive writing textbook I've seen. However, the sample writings included in the text need to be expanded and off "better quality"--closer to what a student would turn in for a Comp I course.

Pg 319: "Generally speaking, write your introduction and conclusion last, after you have fleshed out the body paragraphs." This is dangerous advice. While I don't think it means to, I feel it downplays the importance of a thesis and/or mapping statement/plan of coherence. Without such a guide directly in front of them, many students will go off course. I feel the discussion/instruction of the thesis statement should occur in the outlining and drafting segment. It can and should be revisited later, but to wait to this point could be detrimental to the paper. Section 11.4: Accurate and essential. Students really need to know how to evaluate source material. From page 435: Questionable sources: free online encyclopedias. Thank you! From page 438: "Think ahead to a moment a few weeks from now, when you've written your research paper and are almost ready to submit it for a grade. There is just one task left - writing your list of sources." I've always thought it wise to have students created their references page as they write the paper. They can delete a source they don't end up including, and if they wait to the end, they are more likely to forget a source. Page 570: The chart should probably be labeled "Winter Olympic Medal Standings since 1924." If the combined total is calculated, the US has more than double our closest competitor, the Soviet Union. Also, the URL included in the text does not work. On the whole, the info is accurate and will be very helpful to students.

Not much in the book seems dated. Not much background is given for the fictional students in the book, and no pictures of them are provided. While this does increase the longevity of the book, it also decreases the chances of a real student identifying with the students in the textbook. The sample student writing on 361 is or will be dated, but if you're writing about tech, it's going to be. Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets from page 455. This is quite dated. After the myth that Atkins died from heart issues circulated, the low carb movement died with him. The process that this paper goes through is structured well. And I think that the teaching done by it is very relevant. So...I don't think that it's relevance as a fad should necessarily be considered. But if the book gets updated in 5 to 10 years, I'd recommend a different topic. The annotated essay portion on page 470 looks like it was created on an old-school typewriter. Ding! Page 531: The discussion of the URL vs. DOI is timely but may become irrelevant. I'm glad to see it's in here, but it may become irrelevant in the future.

All the language seems clear to me. However, I have a Master's in Writing. It's difficult to take that filter off and think as a college freshman would. For example, page 327 uses the phrase "formal English." I have a strong context for that, but would most college freshman. I honestly am not sure. It might be helpful to have a few early college students review the textbook.

Yes, it is internally consistent. The book uses similar language throughout and references previous and upcoming chapters frequently.

The textbook seems appropriately modular. An instructor could use portions he/she wanted or needed and leave out non-applicable content such as the "freshman seminar" type sections. Nearly half the book is grammar, punctuation and "college wisdom" content, which makes modularity especially important if the book is being exclusively used a Composition I textbook. And I do think its modularity is designed well and designed well enough to function in that way. The text does references previous and upcoming chapters frequently, but I think this still works fine.

There is no table of contents at the front. The portions about Crystal, while they are related thematically to the text, still seem out of place. I've used another textbook with a similar element (a group of first-year students who share their struggles and successes). In the textbook I used, there were pictures of the students, and their comments and insight were set off in colorful textbooks. While it seemed a bit cheesy, as does this, the concept is helpful to students, I think. Setting off this element in sidebar allows the text to flow more smoothly and helps to identify the comments as such. Some of the tables are broken at the page breaks in segments that make them hard to follow. For example, if they were broken between rows instead of in the middle of them, that would make them easier to follow. Exercise 2 on page 544/545 is an example of a terrible table break. The overview of sections on page 38 is very confusing. This info should be included mainly in a table of contents or a chapter introduction. The Choosing Specific, Appropriate Words section on page 327-328 could be set off with a different color or the like. It seems odd simply being part of the flow of text. Something to consider: This textbook is set up in something of a narrative structure. It might be more effective if set up as an owner's manual, considering our current generation of learners' aversion to lengthy text. 9.1 Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement Chapter 9 is covering developing a thesis, but chapter 8 looks at writing the draft. The instructions on the thesis need to come before instructions on writing the draft. Consider adding table 8.1 to page 354. Finally, there is no index, glossary or works cited sections at the end. The overall organization is good, quite functional, but some of the "accessories" are missing.

The color scheme is too muted. Various sections are "highlighted" in light gray. More distinct colors would give the reader clearer clues about how the text is organized. Also, some sort of picture or icon would help to recognize certain segments. For example, the "Writing at Work" segments could have a small picture of a person at an office desk (preferably Dwight Schrute). I really like the charts on page 49 and 51, 54.

I found a few punctuation errors, but they're all essentially the same: missing spaces. This may have happened when the document was converted to PDF. Orunless on page 52. "athesis" on page 338. Fencessymbolize on page 340. seeChapter 6 on page 368. From page 392: "Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments "Shouldn't it be "traps" instead of "trapping"? Manual published from page 424 Table 11.1 on 423 and 424 uses two fonts inconsistently. asSmithsonian Magazine orNature from page 434 athttp://www.apa.org and athttp://owl.english.purdue.edu on page 492. From page 521: "byperiods." From page 516: "inand"

I didn't find much that was necessarily inclusive, other than the names of the fictional students. There were some sample essays (linked) that included non-white authors, which is certainly inclusive. However, I don't think any of the examples or articles were exclusive. Being a "white" male myself, I have a filter that is difficult to remove. I would hope that you could find some non-white reviewers to give you their opinion of this element.

Very, very comprehensive. I actually felt all the grammar and "freshmen seminar" elements took up too much of the textbook, but since it's free and the modularity works well, that's fine. Please add stronger student sample essays, a table of contents, glossary, index and works cited sections. And make the color scheme bolder. Thanks for the opportunity to review this textbook!

Reviewed by Tanya Grosz, Assistant Professor of English & Director of Undergraduate Pathways, University of Northwestern - St. Paul on 7/15/14

I was surprised at just how comprehensive this book was. It covers everything from study strategies to prewriting to editing and punctuation and research writing. Also, it includes writing strategies for ELL students which is very helpful. While I... read more

I was surprised at just how comprehensive this book was. It covers everything from study strategies to prewriting to editing and punctuation and research writing. Also, it includes writing strategies for ELL students which is very helpful. While I would have liked to have seen more full-text essays woven throughout the text, there are several in the final chapter, there are links to others, and there are a few throughout the book.

I have taught writing for 20 years, and I find this text to be both accurate and helpful. I find that students, regardless of age, struggle most with essay organization, and this text devotes the appropriate amount of time to organizing a paragraph and essay.

Updates could be made in a straightforward and easy fashion; many of the principles are solid and timeless. The MLA/APA part can be easily updated as can the essay examples.

The tone is extremely accessible. As I read through chapters 1 - 3, I was concerned that the text was almost too basic to be used with college freshmen, but as I reflected upon this, it dawned upon me that I cover some of the same concepts in the first week of class based on a writing and editing assessment. A teacher could easily extract those components that aren't necessary. Ultimately, this book is clear and readable.

Each chapter has a framework that is consistent; there is review at the end that is helpful and exercises for the student who wishes to practice what has been covered in the chapter.

I could easily see myself extracting certain elements of various chapters and using some chapters but not others. The book lends itself to easily using some chapters and not others and certain parts of a chapter without the entirety.

This is a difficult question because no one would likely organize a textbook the same way as someone else. I found the Refining Writing chapter (Chapter 7) a little oddly placed, but it certainly was not a deal-breaker, and because of its excellent modularity, one could easily organize the presentation differently. The topics are definitely presented clearly and logically.

The charts and graphs did not present very clearly on my screen, but I'm not sure if that's the text or my computer. While it wasn't distracting, the graphs were a bit pixelated and fuzzy. The essay samples were clear. Navigation was easy.

I thought the grammar, sentence flow, punctuation, etc. was excellent.

I wish I had access to the chapter for ELL students 20 years ago! I found nothing offensive in the text and found helpful chapters for college-bound high school students, freshmen or sophomore college students, and adult learners.

I find this book to be pragmatic, helpful, clear, straightforward, and well done. I am going to recommend it to my department for review. I think there should be a Learning Style quiz embedded or linked to when discussing learning styles for students. The writing tips and advice given were accurate and relevant. Literally, the only piece I would have liked to have seen addressed but did not was how to be an effective peer editor, but the tips for editing one's own paper could easily be applied to editing a peer's essay. While I would likely not use the chapter on presenting with my own class, I found it to be helpful. I do have one question about the formatting of the essays in chapter 12 at the end of the book: Why were the paragraphs not indented? I know of no composition instructors who allow block formatting for submitted essays. I recommend reviewing this book!

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Writing
  • Chapter 2: Writing Basics: What Makes a Good Sentence?
  • Chapter 3: Punctuation
  • Chapter 4: Working with Words: Which Word Is Right?
  • Chapter 5: Help for English Language Learners
  • Chapter 6: Writing Paragraphs: Separating Ideas and Shaping Content
  • Chapter 7: Refining Your Writing: How Do I Improve My Writing Technique?
  • Chapter 8: The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?
  • Chapter 9: Writing Essays: From Start to Finish
  • Chapter 10: Rhetorical Modes
  • Chapter 11: Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?
  • Chapter 12: Writing a Research Paper
  • Chapter 13: APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting
  • Chapter 14: Creating Presentations: Sharing Your Ideas
  • Chapter 15: Readings: Examples of Essays

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Writing for Success is a text that provides instruction in steps, builds writing, reading, and critical thinking, and combines comprehensive grammar review with an introduction to paragraph writing and composition.

Beginning with the sentence and its essential elements, this book addresses each concept with clear, concise and effective examples that are immediately reinforced with exercises and opportunities to demonstrate, and reinforce, learning.

Each chapter allows your students to demonstrate mastery of the principles of quality writing. With its incremental approach, it can address a range of writing levels and abilities, helping each student in your course prepare for their next writing or university course. Constant reinforcement is provided through examples and exercises, and the text involves students in the learning process through reading, problem-solving, practicing, listening, and experiencing the writing process.

Each chapter also has integrated examples that unify the discussion and form a common, easy-to-understand basis for discussion and exploration. This will put your students at ease, and allow for greater absorption of the material.

Tips for effective writing are included in every chapter, as well. Thought-provoking scenarios provide challenges and opportunities for collaboration and interaction. These exercises are especially helpful if you incorporate group work in your course. Clear exercises teach sentence and paragraph writing skills that lead to common English composition and research essays.

Exercises are integrated in each segment. Each concept is immediately reinforced as soon as it is introduced to keep students on track.

Exercises are designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration. This allows for peer-peer engagement, development of interpersonal skills, and promotion of critical thinking skills.

Exercises that involve self-editing and collaborative writing are featured. This feature develops and promotes student interest in the areas and content.

There are clear internal summaries and effective displays of information. This contributes to ease of access to information and increases the ability of your students to locate desired content.

Rule explanations are simplified with clear, relevant, and theme-based examples. This feature provides context that will facilitate learning and increase knowledge retention.

There is an obvious structure to the chapter and segment level. This allows for easy adaptation to your existing and changing course needs or assessment outcomes.

Contribute to this Page

10 Best Books on Writing Skills You Must-Read to Level Up

If you want to develop your writing skills, you need to learn from the best. Here are 10 writing books you can use to improve your skills fast.

Tomas Laurinavicius profile photo

Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-Founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

Blog post cover picture

If you asked me what’s the best way to  become a better writer , I’d say three things:

Read, write, and read about writing— in that order .

The idea that reading books on writing will help you become better at the task seems a bit strange at first. But after you start writing every day—professionally, that is—you will see that you will face some hard problems that will haunt you every time you sit down to write.

The simplest way to overcome these issues and adopt a philosophy of writing that will make you a more professional, resilient, and wiser writer is to read the books about writing that masters of the craft have published.

Learn from the best, and guess what? You will become the best writer you can be.

I love reading about writing because that's how I've become a pretty good writer over time, despite the fact English isn't my native tongue.

Because I've been blessed with the wisdom of so many great writers who have come before me, I want to share my favorite ten books on writing so you can benefit as much as I have.

Let’s get started.

10 Writing Books Every Writer Should Read

Author : Stephen King

A writing book from the world’s leading horror writer that will help you understand what it takes to write consistently, find your muse, and master your writing toolbox.

Let me start by saying I’ve never read a book from Stephen King.

If there was ever a bad Stephen King fan, it’s me.

Yet, when confronted with the idea of listening to his audiobook (narrated by the author himself), I decided to buy it and see what this bestselling author has to say about the craft. I don’t really know why I bought it; it just caught my eye.

To my delight, listening to this book was incredibly pleasurable; Mr. King did a terrific job of sharing his philosophy of writing and his attitude towards it.

More importantly, his rather geeky voice conveyed the important parts of the book; the ones that he clearly cared about.

One of the most important writing lessons I took was the whole idea of finding the muse (see the quote below).

King also talks about grammar, sentence structure, adverbs (hint:  he hates them ), dialogues and conversations, draft development, and the craft of writing.

I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did from his book. If you’ve read some of my articles on this site, you will have surely seen I quote him every two articles.  On Writing  is  that  good.

On Writing  has been a highly influential book for me, and it’s one any writer — regardless of whether you’re a fan of his or not — will benefit from reading.

👉  Buy On Writing

Best Quotes from On Writing

Where Good Ideas Come From

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.

How to Wake Up the Muse

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.

What to Write About

Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth.

Perfect For : Any type of writer—fiction or nonfiction—who’s struggling to find their muse, who wants to know what it feels like to be a writer, and who wants to master the writing skills to become better at their craft.

The Elements of Style

Authors : William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

A classic book on grammar, style, and punctuation. If you feel like you need to improve any of those three aspects of your writing, then this book is a great start.

When I was first getting started writing as a professional content writer, I remember other writers wouldn’t stop mentioning  The Elements of Style .

“ What is all the fuzz about? ” I thought to myself.

So I picked a copy. With 85 pages, it’s a short read.

But don’t let the size fool you. Concise as it is, you will learn so much from this book that you’d feel like a different writer after you read it.

Originally written by William Strunk Jr. in 1918 (yes, over one hundred years ago!), and edited in 1959 by E.B. White, this book is as useful today as it was back in the analog days of writing.

The book starts with “The Elementary Rules of Usage,” where the authors explain some of the basic concepts of grammar and style like:

  • Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause (chapter #4)
  • Do not join independent clauses with a comma (chapter #5)
  • Use a dash to set up an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary (chapter #8)

If you read often and like to analyze what you read—that is, if you’re a nerd like me—then these rules are pretty basic.

The second section, “Elementary Principles of Composition,” talks about more complex and advanced rules of composition, such as:

  • Use the active voice (chapter #14)
  • Omit needless words (chapter #17)
  • Keep related words together (chapter #20)

These rules continue to be pretty basic, but since they relate to the style of composition, they affect the way you write with more power than the previous grammar rules from the first section.

Coming from an era where writing wasn’t as simple as opening a laptop and writing anything you like knowing that you can erase what you write in one swoop, the authors emphasize the importance of clarity.

The following two sections—“A Few Matters of Form” and “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused”—focus on specific parts of the writing toolbox.

In the first section of the two mentioned, the authors talk about how to use parentheses, hyphens, and references—all highly technical concepts but still useful for anyone who wants to know the “standard” way of using those elements of writing.

In the second of the two, one of the largest of the book, the authors take a dictionary-like approach, talking about common homophones, homographs, and other commonly misused expressions. This section is meant to be used mostly as a reference point than as a tool for learning.

The final section, “An Approach to Style (with A List of Reminders)” minds itself on different writing style recommendations. I’ve found this section to be the most useful as it focuses on the actual elements of style.

The advice, while basic and obvious as it may look, is incredibly refreshing. Some of these “reminders” they mention include:

  • Do not overwrite
  • Avoid fancy words

In a world where people often avoid studying grammar and style, this last section is the fastest and easiest way to improve both elements at the same time.

Most books about writing, like “On Writing Well” and which is mentioned next, are the children of The Elements of Style; an extension, if you will.

Named by Time  as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923, there’s hardly any better book to start working on your writing skills than with The Elements of Style. Do yourself — and your readers — a favor, and pick a copy.

👉  Buy The Elements of Style

Best Quotes from The Elements of Style

Imitate Other Writers

The use of language begins with imitation. […] Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead of admiring what is good. Then when you write in a way that comes naturally, you will echo the halloos that bear repeating.

Do Not Overwrite

Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. When writing with a computer, you must guard against wordiness. The click and flow of a word processor can be seductive, and you may find yourself adding a few unnecessary words or even a whole passage just to experience the pleasure of running your fingers over the keyboard and watching your words appear on the screen. It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess.

Avoid Fancy Words

Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.

Perfect For : Anyone who wants to improve his or her writing without having to take a course or read a complex book on the subject.

On Writing Well

Author : William Zinsser

Another classic for writers who want to learn what it means to be a professional writer, how to find one’s style, and how to write with it.

After The Elements of Style, I often saw writers recommend  On Writing Well  as their favorite book on writing.

Puzzled as I was to see why it was recommended so much, I bought it and read it. Soon afterward, I realized why it is so famous.

If I had to summarize this book in a sentence, I’d say it’s a book that teaches you the best ways to find your writing style, develop it, and then polish it.

I think the reason why this book has been a classic for writers, just like The Elements of Style, is that the author doesn’t get too philosophical or cutesy in his concepts, neither he gets too technical. In a way, it provides the right balance between The Elements of Style and Bird by Bird (see next), which is what I like about it.

The book is separated into four sections:

  • Principles : Where the author explains seven basic concepts for any writer to grasp, including avoiding clutter and understanding style
  • Methods : Where the author explains three key writing methods, including how to start and end a piece
  • Forms : Where the author explains nine ways to structure different writing forms, including nonfiction, biographies, and sports
  • Attitudes : Where the author explains six different concepts around the psychology of writing

On Writing Well feels like a book a coach or a friendly writing professor would write. The author, William Zinsser, goes over each of the 25 chapters as if he was giving you personal advice.

Reading the book feels like you're being mentored by a wise, highly experienced writer. And you'll be a much better writer thanks to it.

👉  Buy On Writing Well

Best Quotes from On Writing Well

What a Writer Really Writes About

Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.

Writing Style

There is no style store; style is organic to the person doing the writing, as much a part of him as his hair, or, if he is bald, his lack of it. Trying to add style is like adding a toupee.This is the problem of writers who set out deliberately to garnish their prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique. The reader will notice if you are putting on airs. Readers want the person who is talking to them to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself.

How to Engage an Audience

First, work hard to master the tools. Simplify, prune and strive for order. Think of this as a mechanical act, and soon your sentences will become cleaner. The act will never become as mechanical as, say, shaving or shampooing; you will always have to think about the various ways in which the tools can be used. But at least your sentences will be grounded in solid principles, and your chances of losing the reader will be smaller.Think of the other as a creative act: the expressing of who you are. Relax and say what you want to say.Never say anything in writing that you wouldn’t comfortably say in conversation. If you’re not a person who says “indeed” or “moreover,” or who calls someone an individual (“he’s a fine individual”), please don’t write it.

Perfect For : Writers who want to learn the philosophy of writing, who want to discover their own style, and who want to improve its output quality.

Bird by Bird

Author : Anne Lamott

The most touching, poetic, and psychological book I’ve ever read about writing.

All the writing books mentioned in this list are incredible on their own right. Written by expert writers, they go over the many details of writing — grammar, style, storytelling — but any one of them takes the road on which Bird by Bird chooses to stroll.

I’ll be the first one to tell you I hate clichés, poetic phraseology for the sake of poetry, and silly sensitivity (think most self-help books). Bird by Bird doesn’t fall for any of these traps, yet it manages to be poetic and sensitive without being too fragile for confronting the reality of writing.

The first part of the book lays around the life of Anne Lamott, a relatively popular fiction writer, who happens to have had a quite interesting life.

Before reading  Bird by Bird , I didn't know who she was. But just like On Writing (the first book mentioned in here), the author manages to share enough of her life to enlighten the story and thesis of the book.

In the later stages of the book, Ms. Lamott lays her philosophy of writing. Why should you care to read the philosophy of this particular writer, you may ask? Because it’s crafted with the detail and poetry of a fiction book without losing its essence.

The author explains what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be one, and how you can develop a narrative for a fiction book or story.

It’s hard to explain what it makes this book so pleasurable to read (I actually heard it as an audiobook, another great experience which the author herself reads), but it’s still a wonderful experience that will help you understand how you can overcome your own fears, doubts, and pains of writing.

Meant mostly for fiction writers, the author spends some time explaining the different aspects of developing a plot, a story, and the characters of one.

Even though I don’t read fiction and I don’t plan to write fiction anytime soon, it’s still a must-read for any professional content writer.

Whether you want to write fiction or nonfiction, Bird by Bird provides a beautiful reading experience that will teach you what it takes to be a writer and how to find your demons.

👉  Buy Bird by Bird

Best Quotes from Bird by Bird

Shitty First Drafts

Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled.The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

Looking Around

Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein.
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.

Perfect For : Writers who suffer from impostor’s syndrome, who fear the blank page, or who fight to develop a first draft.

Writing Tools

Author : Roy Peter Clark

A summary of writing tools that any writer needs to master.

I like to think of writing as art made up of hundreds upon hundreds of techniques all intertwined together. You can’t use one without—directly or indirectly—using another one.

What’s more, there’s a blurry line between actual grammar rules with stylistic concepts that make a given era. For example, the whole idea of writing colloquially is a relatively new concept, yet there are no hard rules that tell you to use that manner of writing. You write colloquially because that's what you are used to.

Mastering the art of wordsmithing is hard. You can’t really study it; you only need to practice it and let it mature. But if you don’t know what actual  writing techniques  you can use, then the entire process gets messy. A catch-22, indeed.

Writing Tools is the first book I’ve ever read that tackles this dilemma. Roy Peter Clark, a writer and famous writing coach, dissects 50 of the most common writing tools and explains them clearly for anyone to understand and use.

The author doesn’t analyze each tool abstractly; rather, he goes back and forth between the theory and the application of it. Such a structure makes it not only easy to read and highly engaging but also much easier to understand.

Books on writing often get too technical and dull for the common reader. Clark, instead, takes a more practical approach that I enjoyed throughout the book.

Some of the tools he analyzes include:

  • Adverbs usage
  • Inflection usage
  • Word and sentence pace
  • Dialogue usage

Whether you use the writing tools he shared in his book, the fact you're aware of their existence will help you craft better content.

Ever since I read Writing Tools, it became a favorite of mine—in my opinion, the best book Clark has ever written.

👉  Buy Writing Tools

Best Quotes from Writing Tools

Let Punctuation Control Pace and Space

Most punctuation is required, but some is optional, leaving the writer with many choices. My modest goal is to highlight those choices, to transform the formal rules of punctuation into useful tools.If a period is a stop sign, then what kind of traffic flow is created by other marks? The comma is a speed bump; the semicolon is what a driver education teacher calls a “rolling stop”; the parenthetical expression is a detour; the colon is a flashing yellow light that announces something important up ahead; the dash is a tree branch in the road.

Cut Big, Then Small

When writers fall in love with their words, it is a good feeling that can lead to a bad effect. When we fall in love with all our quotes, characters, anecdotes, and metaphors, we cannot bear to kill any of them. But kill we must. In 1914 British author Arthur Quiller-Couch wrote it bluntly: “Murder your darlings.”

Get the Name of the Dog

When details of character and setting appeal to the senses, they create an experience for the reader that leads to understanding. […] Inexperienced writers may choose the obvious detail, the man puffing on the cigarette, the young woman chewing on what’s left of her fingernails. Those details fail to tell — unless the man is dying of lung cancer or the woman is anorexic.At the St. Petersburg Times, editors and writing coaches warn reporters not to return to the office without “the name of the dog.” That reporting task does not require the writer to use the detail in the story, but it reminds the reporter to keep her eyes and ears opened.The good writer uses telling details, not only to inform, but to persuade.

Perfect For : Writers who know that they need to improve their writing but can’t figure out what it is that they have to improve.

The Art of X-Ray Reading

A deep analysis of the writing styles of famous writers.

I’m not a fan of fiction. It’s strange, because I love reading, and I appreciate a good story, but fiction isn’t the type of writing I enjoy. I like facts and abstractions that only a non-fiction book can provide.

Sadly, this inclination for non-fiction ends up leaving me from enjoying some of the best writers, including people as diverse as Anton Chekhov, William Burroughs, and even William Shakespeare.

Fortunately, however, Roy Peter Clark wrote  The Art of X-Ray Reading  to analyze the writing styles of such writers with the goal to uncover the elements that make their writing so good.

Analyzing content is always hard because you can’t measure it quantitively. The same happens with any type of art, including painting and cinema. You can measure a writer’s use of grammar and language, but only when they mess something up, not when they amaze you with their technique.

Roy Peter Clark is a master at analyzing content (it’s no coincidence he wrote Writing Tools), so he made this book a pretty good attempt at quantifying the actual techniques of 25 of the best writers of all time, including:

  • Scott J. Fitzgerald (chapter #1)
  • Sylvia Plath (chapter #5)
  • Gabriel García Márquez (chapter #11)
  • Charles Dickens (chapter #25)

The book doesn’t analyze their entire production; it doesn’t even analyze an entire book. Clark focuses on small pieces of their most famous books, uncovering specific excerpts that shine a light on their unique qualities.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I thought I would. Actually, I didn’t like Help for Writers! (which I don't feature in this list) or even The Glamour of Grammar (featured next) as much I liked this one.

I remember I read this book while I was in New York City, reading most of it in my long daily subway rides. The book, the thesis, and the narrative Clark developed caught me entirely. I ignored my surroundings entirely. When that happens, you know that's a sign that the book is amazing.

While it does fall short in analyzing the entire technique box of the writers—something that’d take an entire book on its own for each author—it still helps you understand with more clarity what makes a great writer achieve such masterful use of the language.

👉  Buy The Art of X-Ray Reading

Best Quotes from The Art of X-Ray Reading

On Imitating

Here is a big writing move: study the moves of writers you admire (and some you don’t). Without plagiarizing, look for ways to imitate that work. Be attentive to the way your own writing begins to show this influence and then moves beyond it.

Repetition vs. Redundancy

Embrace the distinction between repetition and redundancy. Use the first to establish a pattern in the work, whether of language or imagery. Redundancy is not always a bad thing. (Redundant systems on an airplane keep it in the air, even if one system breaks down.)When you repeat a word, phrase, or other element of language or narrative, make sure it is worth repeating. Make sure that each repetition advances the story in some way. Ineffective repetition slows down a narrative. Effective repetition helps it gain traction. Each reappearance of a character or repetition of a phrase can add meaning, suspense, mystery, or energy to a story.

On Motivation

In human experience, motivation is a cracked mirror, never providing a pure reflection. Avoid, in both fiction and nonfiction, any simple explanation for why characters make important choices.

Perfect For : Writers who have read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Shakespeare and think “how could I ever write like them?”

The Glamour of Grammar

A book on the beauty of grammar, without the boring technicalities of it.

Grammar is the most important element of a writer’s toolbox. If you don’t master grammar, you can’t write; it’s that simple.

Grammar explains why and how we use punctuation, word classes (i.e., nouns, adjectives, etc.), and sentence structures, among other things.

Sad as it may be, an understanding of grammar is paramount for any writer, but at the same time, it can be boring as hell. What’s more, grammar can cause a “paralysis by analysis” situation where you spend too much time thinking on how to write a sentence correctly instead of just writing it and letting your style dictate your ideas.

In “ The Glamour of Grammar ,” Roy Peter Clark makes the whole process of mastering grammar a pleasurable experience. He separates the entire grammar world into five parts:

Made up of 50 chapters, each one talking about a different aspect of grammar, Clark explains how to understand grammar in basic terms, without getting too technical or abstract.

The author clearly wanted to distribute his 50 lessons equally among the five sections, something that makes some chapters a bit redundant or boring (e.g. “Chapter #6: Take a class on how to cross-dress the parts of speech”).

The best parts, I believe, hover around the use of the different punctuation marks (section #2: Points), the use of grammar rules (section #3: Standards), and the construction of meaning within sentences (section #4: Meaning).

If you’re new to grammar, or if you want to go over some rules that you forgot, The Glamour of Grammar will be an easy introduction to the world of grammar.

👉  Buy The Glamour of Grammar

There are many other books on the subject of grammar (some of which I haven’t read and, as far as I know, are much more technical) which you should consider reading.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period , by June Casagrande, is a good book, similar to The Art of Grammar.

Some of the books that I've not read and which have great reviews include:

  • Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style , by Benjamin Dreyer
  • It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences , by June Casagrande
  • The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment , by Susan Thruman
  • Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English , by Patricia T. O’Conner

Best Quotes from The Glamour of Grammar

The Short-word Economy of English

When a story is powerful, keep the language spare. In English, spare language depends on short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs at the points of highest emotion.Try saying the most important thing using short words in short sentences.

Emphasis and Space

To build suspense, writers slow down the pace of the story. The best way to do this is with a series of short sentences. The more periods—the more full stops—the slower the reader will go.From now on think of the period as a full stop, and begin to look at the place right before the full stop as a hot spot, a point of emphasis.

The Best Sentences

The best sentences, even the most serious ones, are fun to write, coming from creative drafting and revision, not from some diagrammatic calculation.

Perfect For : Writers who want to discover the beautiful aspects of grammar and how to master it without falling for all its technicalities.

Cashvertising

Author : Drew Eric Whitman

A psychology-driven copywriting book that will show you how you can craft copy that works.

I love reading about copywriting—actually, I like reading about the topic more than I like actually writing copy.

Copywriting never felt right for me; I like the art of writing copy and promoting it than trying to make a sale right away from my content. It’s strange, but it’s just a personal predilection.

The reason why I’m attracted to copywriting, even if it is from a theoretical perspective, is that it has something that content marketing lacks.

In the simplest terms,  copywriting is the art of writing copy to sell .

To make a sale, in contrast to what most people think, the copywriter must have a deep understanding of the audience’s needs and desires. More importantly, copywriting requires a  deep understanding of human psychology .

Cashvertising was one of the first copywriting books I’ve ever read, and it's still up to this day one of the books that had the most impact on my writing career.

In contrast to what most copywriting books do, which is to focus on the copywriting techniques, the words to use, and other specific aspects of the craft, this book spends more time talking about the psychology of human behavior than anything else.

In this book, Drew Eric Whitman starts with an explanation of the “ Life-Force 8 ”—the eight desires for which humans are biologically programmed—and the “ 9 secondary human wants. ”

Any successful advertising or marketing campaign works thanks to the leverage of any of these forces and wants.

Then, he moves on to explaining 17 foundational principles of human psychology, which is one of the most interesting parts of the entire book.

This section could be a book on its own, and as it stands, it’s a summary of the most famous and useful psychology principles that exist. This includes Cialdini’s six principles of influence, Kahneman’s study of heuristics, and many more psychological models.

As I said before, copywriting works because of psychology, and Whitman talks a lot about the different psychological principles that make advertising work.

Finally, the author goes through 41 copywriting techniques. While this last section is closer to the typical technique-rich copywriting book you read, it doesn't downgrade the quality of the book.

All in all, whether you’re new to copywriting or not, Cashvertising is one of the best books you can read on the subject.

👉  Buy Cashvertising

Best Quotes from Cashvertising

The Formula for Desire

So here’s the simple formula for desire, and the result it sets in motion: Tension → Desire → Action to Satisfy the Desire In short, when you appeal to people’s LF8 desires, you create a drive that motivates them to take an action that will fulfill that desire as soon as possible.
People buy from you when they believe what you are selling is of greater value than the dollars they need to exchange for it.

Crank up the Scarcity

As advertisers, we need to motivate people to take action right now. We don’t want them to wait, or think about it, or put off the decision until the “later” that never comes. You want them to whip out their credit cards and order now. And it’s not simply a matter of asking for the order—any good salesperson knows to do that. It’s a matter of getting your prospect to take action when the offer is presented to them. And you do it by creating the perception of scarcity with powerful deadlines.

Perfect For : Anyone who wants to learn the basics of copywriting without any fluff.

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This

Author : Luke Sullivan

A book on the philosophy of advertising and copywriting.

As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of philosophy. It’s not that I’m that good at understanding theoretical philosophy—I struggle a lot with its abstract concepts—it’s just that I like the fact  philosophy teaches you how to think .

It’s great to learn techniques and tactics—whether that's on writing, advertising, marketing, or any other interesting topic—but if you don’t know how to use them, if you don’t know they fit within the larger strategy, then it’s pointless to use them.

I want to be able to think like an advertiser so I don’t have to rely on other people’s techniques but to create my own. That’s how you truly succeed at anything—and advertising is no exception.

Luke Sullivan, the author of “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This,” takes a philosophical approach to advertising, going over the way it has historically worked, why people hate it, and how you can learn to master the skills to become a successful advertiser.

Unlike Cashvertising or other copywriting books that eventually get down onto the details of advertising techniques, Sullivan talks about broader aspects of the subject.

The book is filled with golden nuggets that will help you get a deeper understanding of how advertising and marketing works. From copywriting to TV ads, the author talks about what it takes to create something that people want to consume — that is, your ads.

“Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” is an interesting, smart, and rich book that will help you understand more about the art of advertising.

👉  Buy Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This

Best Quotes from Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This

The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.

What’s a Brand

A brand isn’t just the name on the box. It isn’t the thing in the box, either. A brand is the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities, and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.

The Three Types of Copywriter You Can Be

Steve Hayden, most famous for penning Apple’s “1984” commercial, said: “If you want to be a well-paid copywriter, please your client. If you want to be an award-winning copywriter, please yourself. If you want to be a great copywriter, please your reader.”

Perfect For : Copywriters who’re getting started or anyone who wants to learn how to write great copy.

Trust Me, I’m Lying

Author : Ryan Holiday

A book on the dark art of PR and media manipulation in the current world of blogging and fake news.

When you see big media publications, you are likely to think of them as professional, forward-looking companies with high standards and ethics.

It turns out it’s all a lie. Media companies are desperate for attention; they make money with ads, which means they need as many eyeballs as possible. That leaves space for a man like Ryan Holiday, who he calls himself a “media manipulator.”

Holiday’s job is to get press for his clients. He doesn’t have a big team behind him or a lot of fame around him either. He simply knows how to leverage the loopholes the media business model has and get a lot of press without much effort.

Throughout the book, the author presents a dark overview of the media landscape. With analytical precision and a bit of philosophical pondering (I couldn’t like this book as much if it wasn’t a bit philosophical), Holiday explains that the media world isn’t made for the reader,  but for the media company to profit .

That fact wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t that media companies can easily manipulate people’s perception of reality, something that has eventually landed us in a world of “fake news” and “post-truth.”

Any content marketer who wants to understand how the press really works and how to use the weaknesses of the media model to his advantage should read this book, a complete eye-opener that will change your perception of your profession.

👉  Buy Trust Me, I'm Lying

Best Quotes from Trust Me, I’m Lying

The Blog Con

Blogs are not intended to be profitable and independent businesses. The tools they use to build traffic and revenue are part of a larger play.

The Manipulator’s Job

Bloggers eager to build names and publishers eager to sell their blogs are like two crooked businessmen colluding to create interest in a bogus investment opportunity—building up buzz and clearing town before anyone gets wise. In this world, where the rules and ethics are lax, a third player can exert massive influence. Enter: the media manipulator.The assumptions of blogging and their owners present obvious vulnerabilities that people like me exploit. They allow us to control what is in the media, because the media is too busy chasing profits to bother trying to stop us. They are not motivated to care. Their loyalty is not to their audience but to themselves and their con.

The Problem with Journalism

The problem of journalism, says Edward Jay Epstein in his book Between Fact and Fiction, is simple. Journalists are rarely in a position to establish the truth of an issue themselves, since they didn’t witness it personally. They are “entirely dependent on self-interested ‘sources’” to supply their facts. Every part of the news-making process is defined by this relationship; everything is colored by this reality.Who are these self-interested sources? Well, anyone selling a product, a message, or an agenda. People like me.

Perfect For : Anyone who wants to learn how the world of blogging works and how you can hack it to your advantage.

Time to Start Reading These Writing Books

So here you have it, the best ten books on writing.

Take the time to read them carefully, sipping each lesson slowly, because these lessons will take months or years to take root. But once they do, they will transform your writing in ways you would never imagine.

Best Writing Newsletter ✍️

Writing tips and examples, best reads, cool tools, jobs, and friendly encouragement to do your best writing. Sent weekly, on Thursdays.

Sent weekly, on Thursdays. Costs $0. Unsubscribe anytime. · Let me see it first

A man holding iPhone with newsletter

Literacy Ideas

How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

writing book skills

WHAT IS A BOOK REVIEW?

how to write a book review | what is a Book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Traditionally, book reviews are written evaluations of a recently published book in any genre. Usually, around the 500 to 700-word mark, they offer a brief description of a text’s main elements while appraising the work’s strengths and weaknesses. Published book reviews can appear in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. They provide the reader with an overview of the book itself and indicate whether or not the reviewer would recommend the book to the reader.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A BOOK REVIEW?

There was a time when book reviews were a regular appearance in every quality newspaper and many periodicals. They were essential elements in whether or not a book would sell well. A review from a heavyweight critic could often be the deciding factor in whether a book became a bestseller or a damp squib. In the last few decades, however, the book review’s influence has waned considerably, with many potential book buyers preferring to consult customer reviews on Amazon, or sites like Goodreads, before buying. As a result, book review’s appearance in newspapers, journals, and digital media has become less frequent.

WHY BOTHER TEACHING STUDENTS TO WRITE BOOK REVIEWS AT ALL?

Even in the heyday of the book review’s influence, few students who learned the craft of writing a book review became literary critics! The real value of crafting a well-written book review for a student does not lie in their ability to impact book sales. Understanding how to produce a well-written book review helps students to:

●     Engage critically with a text

●     Critically evaluate a text

●     Respond personally to a range of different writing genres

●     Improve their own reading, writing, and thinking skills.

Not to Be Confused with a Book Report!

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOOK REVIEW AND A BOOK REPORT?

book_reviews_vs_book_reports.jpg

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences in both the purpose and the format of the two genres. Generally speaking, book reports aim to give a more detailed outline of what occurs in a book. A book report on a work of fiction will tend to give a comprehensive account of the characters, major plot lines, and themes in the book. Book reports are usually written around the K-12 age range, while book reviews tend not to be undertaken by those at the younger end of this age range due to the need for the higher-level critical skills required in writing them. At their highest expression, book reviews are written at the college level and by professional critics.

Learn how to write a book review step by step with our complete guide for students and teachers by familiarizing yourself with the structure and features.

BOOK REVIEW STRUCTURE

ANALYZE Evaluate the book with a critical mind.

THOROUGHNESS The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. Review the book as a WHOLE.

COMPARE Where appropriate compare to similar texts and genres.

THUMBS UP OR DOWN? You are going to have to inevitably recommend or reject this book to potential readers.

BE CONSISTENT Take a stance and stick with it throughout your review.

FEATURES OF A BOOK REVIEW

PAST TENSE You are writing about a book you have already read.

EMOTIVE LANGUAGE Whatever your stance or opinion be passionate about it. Your audience will thank you for it.

VOICE Both active and passive voice are used in recounts.

A COMPLETE UNIT ON REVIEW AND ANALYSIS OF TEXTS

how to write a book review | movie response unit | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

⭐ Make  MOVIES A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CURRICULUM  with this engaging collection of tasks and tools your students will love. ⭐ All the hard work is done for you with  NO PREPARATION REQUIRED.

This collection of  21 INDEPENDENT TASKS  and  GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS  takes students beyond the hype, special effects and trailers to look at visual literacy from several perspectives offering DEEP LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES by watching a  SERIES, DOCUMENTARY, FILM, and even  VIDEO GAMES.

ELEMENTS OF A BOOK REVIEW

As with any of the writing genres we teach our students, a book review can be helpfully explained in terms of criteria. While there is much to the ‘art’ of writing, there is also, thankfully, a lot of the nuts and bolts that can be listed too. Have students consider the following elements before writing:

●     Title: Often, the title of the book review will correspond to the title of the text itself, but there may also be some examination of the title’s relevance. How does it fit into the purpose of the work as a whole? Does it convey a message or reveal larger themes explored within the work?

●     Author: Within the book review, there may be some discussion of who the author is and what they have written before, especially if it relates to the current work being reviewed. There may be some mention of the author’s style and what they are best known for. If the author has received any awards or prizes, this may also be mentioned within the body of the review.

●     Genre: A book review will identify the genre that the book belongs to, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, romance, science-fiction, history etc. The genre will likely tie in, too with who the intended audience for the book is and what the overall purpose of the work is.

●     Book Jacket / Cover: Often, a book’s cover will contain artwork that is worthy of comment. It may contain interesting details related to the text that contribute to, or detract from, the work as a whole.

●     Structure: The book’s structure will often be heavily informed by its genre. Have students examine how the book is organized before writing their review. Does it contain a preface from a guest editor, for example? Is it written in sections or chapters? Does it have a table of contents, index, glossary etc.? While all these details may not make it into the review itself, looking at how the book is structured may reveal some interesting aspects.

●     Publisher and Price: A book review will usually contain details of who publishes the book and its cost. A review will often provide details of where the book is available too.

how to write a book review | writing a book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW KEY ELEMENTS

As students read and engage with the work they will review, they will develop a sense of the shape their review will take. This will begin with the summary. Encourage students to take notes during the reading of the work that will help them in writing the summary that will form an essential part of their review. Aspects of the book they may wish to take notes on in a work of fiction may include:

●     Characters: Who are the main characters? What are their motivations? Are they convincingly drawn? Or are they empathetic characters?

●     Themes: What are the main themes of the work? Are there recurring motifs in the work? Is the exploration of the themes deep or surface only?

●     Style: What are the key aspects of the writer’s style? How does it fit into the wider literary world?

●     Plot: What is the story’s main catalyst? What happens in the rising action? What are the story’s subplots? 

A book review will generally begin with a short summary of the work itself. However, it is important not to give too much away, remind students – no spoilers, please! For nonfiction works, this may be a summary of the main arguments of the work, again, without giving too much detail away. In a work of fiction, a book review will often summarise up to the rising action of the piece without going beyond to reveal too much!

how to write a book review | 9 text response | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

The summary should also provide some orientation for the reader. Given the nature of the purpose of a review, it is important that students’ consider their intended audience in the writing of their review. Readers will most likely not have read the book in question and will require some orientation. This is often achieved through introductions to the main characters, themes, primary arguments etc. This will help the reader to gauge whether or not the book is of interest to them.

Once your student has summarized the work, it is time to ‘review’ in earnest. At this point, the student should begin to detail their own opinion of the book. To do this well they should:

i. Make It Personal

Often when teaching essay writing we will talk to our students about the importance of climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction. Just as it is helpful to explore large, more abstract concepts in an essay by bringing it down to Earth, in a book review, it is important that students can relate the characters, themes, ideas etc to their own lives.

Book reviews are meant to be subjective. They are opinion pieces, and opinions grow out of our experiences of life. Encourage students to link the work they are writing about to their own personal life within the body of the review. By making this personal connection to the work, students contextualize their opinions for the readers and help them to understand whether the book will be of interest to them or not in the process.

ii. Make It Universal

Just as it is important to climb down the ladder of abstraction to show how the work relates to individual life, it is important to climb upwards on the ladder too. Students should endeavor to show how the ideas explored in the book relate to the wider world. The may be in the form of the universality of the underlying themes in a work of fiction or, for example, the international implications for arguments expressed in a work of nonfiction.

iii. Support Opinions with Evidence

A book review is a subjective piece of writing by its very nature. However, just because it is subjective does not mean that opinions do not need to be justified. Make sure students understand how to back up their opinions with various forms of evidence, for example, quotations, statistics, and the use of primary and secondary sources.

EDIT AND REVISE YOUR BOOK REVIEW

how to write a book review | 9 1 proof read Book review | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

As with any writing genre, encourage students to polish things up with review and revision at the end. Encourage them to proofread and check for accurate spelling throughout, with particular attention to the author’s name, character names, publisher etc. 

It is good practice too for students to double-check their use of evidence. Are statements supported? Are the statistics used correctly? Are the quotations from the text accurate? Mistakes such as these uncorrected can do great damage to the value of a book review as they can undermine the reader’s confidence in the writer’s judgement.

The discipline of writing book reviews offers students opportunities to develop their writing skills and exercise their critical faculties. Book reviews can be valuable standalone activities or serve as a part of a series of activities engaging with a central text. They can also serve as an effective springboard into later discussion work based on the ideas and issues explored in a particular book. Though the book review does not hold the sway it once did in the mind’s of the reading public, it still serves as an effective teaching tool in our classrooms today.

how to write a book review | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

BOOK REVIEW GRAPHIC ORGANIZER (TEMPLATE)

how to write a book review | book review graphic organizer | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

101 DIGITAL & PRINT GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS FOR ALL CURRICULUM AREAS

how to write a book review | digital graphic organizers 1 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

Introduce your students to 21st-century learning with this GROWING BUNDLE OF 101 EDITABLE & PRINTABLE GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS. ✌ NO PREP REQUIRED!!! ✌ Go paperless, and let your students express their knowledge and creativity through the power of technology and collaboration inside and outside the classroom with ease.

Whilst you don’t have to have a 1:1 or BYOD classroom to benefit from this bundle, it has been purpose-built to deliver through platforms such as ✔ GOOGLE CLASSROOM, ✔ OFFICE 365, ✔ or any CLOUD-BASED LEARNING PLATFORM.

Book and Movie review writing examples (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of student writing samples of book reviews.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to both read the movie or book review in detail but also the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the key elements of writing a text review

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of book review writing.

We would recommend reading the example either a year above and below, as well as the grade you are currently working with to gain a broader appreciation of this text type .

how to write a book review | book review year 3 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

BOOK REVIEW VIDEO TUTORIALS

how to write a book review | 2 book review tutorial28129 | How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide | literacyideas.com

OTHER GREAT ARTICLES RELATED TO BOOK REVIEWS

how to write a book review | transactional writing guide | Transactional Writing | literacyideas.com

Transactional Writing

how to write a book review | text response | How to write a text response | literacyideas.com

How to write a text response

how to write a book review | compare and contrast essay 1 | How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

how to write a book review | expository essay writing guide | How to Write Excellent Expository Essays | literacyideas.com

How to Write Excellent Expository Essays

The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh.  A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here.  Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

 Toni Morrison in 1979.

Top 10 books about creative writing

From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft

T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It , I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.

Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.

There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.

1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.

2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.

3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.

4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”

Zadie Smith.

5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.

6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.

7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.

9. Essays by Lydia Davis From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.

10. Essayism by Brian Dillon Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com .

  • Creative writing
  • Toni Morrison
  • Zadie Smith
  • Lydia Davis

Comments (…)

Most viewed.

Looking to publish? Meet your dream editor, designer and marketer on Reedsy.

Find the perfect editor for your next book

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
  • Dreyer’s Englis h by Benjamin Dreyer
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk, White, and Kalman
  • The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison
  • How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

writing book skills

Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

writing book skills

Perfect your book with professional help

Meet the top book editors, designers, and marketers on Reedsy

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

writing book skills

From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

writing book skills

A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

writing book skills

From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

writing book skills

From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

writing book skills

From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Free course: Create a Solid Writing Routine

Learn to banish your procrastination gremlins and finish writing your book. Get started now.

Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

writing book skills

From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

From the book: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

Free course: Amazon Algorithms

Send your book to the top of its category by using Amazon's recommendation system to your advantage. Get started now.

30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

writing book skills

From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

Free course: Author Mailing Lists

Acquire more readers, sell more books, and make more money with the only indispensable tool in the book marketer's arsenal. Get started now.

Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

writing book skills

From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

writing book skills

From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

Comments are currently closed.

Continue reading

Recommended posts from the Reedsy Blog

writing book skills

Narrative Structure: Definition, Examples, and Writing Tips

What's the difference between story structure and narrative structure? And how do you choose the right narrative structure for you novel?

writing book skills

What is the Proust Questionnaire? 22 Questions to Write Better Characters

Inspired by Marcel Proust, check out the questionnaire that will help your characters remember things past.

writing book skills

What is Pathos? Definition and Examples in Literature

Pathos is a literary device that uses language to evoke an emotional response, typically to connect readers with the characters in a story.

writing book skills

How to Start a Children’s Book: Coming Up with Your Big Idea

If you've ever dreamed of writing a children's book but aren't sure where to start, check out this post to learn more about how you can create the perfect story for kids.

writing book skills

How to Become a Travel Writer in 5 Steps: A Guide for Travel Bugs

If you want to get paid to share your adventures, learn how to become a travel writer with these five tips.

writing book skills

How to Write a Biography: A 7-Step Guide [+Template]

Portraying someone’s life on paper in a comprehensive and engaging way requires solid preparation. Here are 7 steps you can follow.

Join a community of over 1 million authors

Reedsy is more than just a blog. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book.

We have an app for that

Build a writing routine with our free writing app.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account:

writing book skills

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Start Selling with Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Host an Amazon Hub
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices

Top 10 Books on Writing Skills To Upskill Yourself 

One must be able to use different styles of writing to match the circumstances given. this is why we have compiled a list of books on writing skills to help you in your writing journey. .

Books On Writing Skill To Upskill yourself

You Can Make Anything By Writing!!

                                                                                                                                  – C.S Lewis.  

Meaning of writing skills: .

​What exactly does a writing skill imply? Writing skills involve the amount of knowledge and abilities one possesses when it comes to expressing one’s creativity and ideas through words in a written form.

When it comes to writing skills, it’s important that one sets the right and the appropriate tone over text and also adapts the relevant writing styles under what the situation calls for.  

Importance Of Writing Skills: 

Writing is an essential form of communication. Writing is considered the most fundamental Job skill. One’s work, intellect, and knowledge are usually judged based on one’s writing skills. Writing plays a vital and indispensable role in making one’s thinking and learning evident and permanent.

Writing not only equips one’s learning, creativity, and thought process but also makes sure that it becomes visible and recognized. May it is school, college, workplace, or even in the community at large, writing is something that provides the basis for judgments.

Learn To Create Content for your eBook with The Best Content Writing Course 

To sum up the significance of writing skills;

Writing is used in many walks of our lives.

● Writing is the first basic requisite to becoming a good reader. ● Writing is an essential job skill ● Writing is the primary basis upon which one’s learning, work, intellect, and thinking will be judged at schools, colleges, workplaces, and society as a whole. ● Writing equips us with communication and creative skills. ● Writing helps in expressing oneself about what kind of a person one may be. ● Writing makes our thinking visible and permanent. ● Writing fosters one’s ability to express and refine one’s ideas to others and oneself. ● Writing helps in preserving one’s ideas and memories. ● Writing helps one to entertain others and also to understand one’s perspective.

Types Of Writing Skills: 

Below mentioned are the five most common styles of writing that are best adapted:.

  • Narrative writing
  • Analytical writing
  • Expository writing
  • Argumentative writing
  • Persuasive writing

Learn the core fundamentals of search marketing with The Best Digital Marketing Course 

More courses 

  • Technical Writing Course

What Is Defined As Good Writing Skills

It is not that difficult to describe writing as good or bad. One knows it simply when one reads it or sees it. But how to explain as to why a piece of writing is good or bad might be a challenging task. Let us simplify that a bit. Making learning easier for the readers by the writers who use simpler phrases, direct methods of explanation, etc makes it good writing.

Good writing has,

A. Interesting And Notable Ideas

Ideas are the soul of a piece. The information the writer chooses to share and what the writer is willing to write about is the preliminary step.

B. Logical And Effective Organization  Of the Ideas

This refers to the order of the ideas or the way the writer moves from one idea to another. It has to be organized logically and efficiently to not confuse the readers.

C. Appropriate Adaptation Of The Tone

This refers to the voice the writer chooses to use. It represents how the writing feels to someone who reads it. The tone is the representation of the writer’s personality through his or her words. Is it formal or casual? Does it sound friendly and inviting? Or reserved and standoffish?

D. Word Choice

Using the right word at the right place to say the right things defines good writing. Word choice has to be more specific and easily memorable.

E. Sentence Fluency ​

Fluent sentences that run smooth and which are also expressive make reading more fun and leads to a better understanding on the part of the reader. Expressions help to grip the reader tight to the subject.

F. Conventions​

​Communicative and the correct conventions make it easy to read for the readers. Conventions include punctuations, spelling grammar, and other things that are agreeably used by the writers to make writing more consistent.

To help improve one’s horrendous writing skills, great writers have written many books on writing skills. Books that contain all the essential tips and tricks for efficient writing. Books on writing skills are the perfect partners who seek help with any genre of writing possible.

Step Into A Scene, And Let It Dripthrough Your Fingertips!!!

                                                                                                                                      M.J.Bush.  

How Do Books On Writing Skills Guide A Newbie

Writing can be a real struggle for even the most experienced writers many a time. If it’s not for difficulties with grammar or having the knowledge to write and create a gripping and compelling story or a piece of material, it comes down to struggles with finding and attaining the creativity needed. Writing being one of the most creative things in life, the difficulties that tag along with it are real too and inevitably occur often.

Luckily, numerous resources help one through these rough patches and get better. These books on writing skills help everyone to polish and better their writing and creative skills in all areas and undoubtedly have proven to be the most useful. These books on writing skills guide one to face such difficulties and unleash their buried skills.

writing book skills

Types Of Books On Writing Skills: 

There are broadly three types of books on writing skills.

★ Books on writing skills that teach the mechanics of language – editing, style, grammar, etc. ★ Books on writing skills that teach story structure – how to structure your approach and frame of mind, how to structure your thinking, how to structure the story and other literary forms. ★ Books on writing skills about how to become a writer – how to channel and navigate the uniqueness of the inner life of a writer.

Which Books On Writing Skills Are To Be Read Based On The Stages Of Writer Development: 

➢ the novice writer: .

For a brand new writer whose ideas have just started wheeling and keep flowing all the more creatively, it’s important to choose the right path that will lead directly to the desired destination. Though your writing needs a lot of work, you are compelled to keep writing.

WHAT TO READ – the ideal books on writing skills for such writers to read would be books on writing skills based on methods. While methods can kind of bore one to death right at the start, it’s a safe bet to read books on writing skills that talk and teach about the structure. It is okay to focus on mechanics later.

➢ The Competent Writer:​ 

As a writer with a decent skillset, you often keep wondering where to begin. But with occasional stellar moments, it is not hard to believe your competence.

WHAT TO READ – at this stage one should focus more on the books on writing skills which talks about the plot structure and approach. These books help one to think through the ideas before putting them down on the pages. For good writers often writing happens in the head even before jotting them as sentences. Read these books on writing skills until it becomes second nature before shifting to a new form. Studying the structure of novel-writing, poetry or screenwriting, etc will make the changes more dramatic and permanent.

Once the structure and approach are fixed it’s time to through the spotlight on one or two mechanical fixes to rewrite and edit with new eyes.

➢ The Seasoned Writer: 

At this point, you have mastered the art of writing to a great extent, spanning across business, medicine, academia, and other domains. You feel that the right time has finally arrived where you can shift your work to fiction or share your life’s lesson through blogs or other mediums. But to do so, you cannot share your ideas in your voice. Somewhere you lack the warmth and sparkle in the work.

WHAT TO READ​ – immerse in the books about writers and writer’s life. Leisurely reading memoirs would help in great ways.

How Does One Connect With Relevant Books On Writing Skills?

Let’s talk briefly about the most foundational usages of the books on writing skills before we move ahead with the list of books on writing skills. Just, in any case, one has strongly resonated with any of the above writing stages, then it’s right to say that one should jump down to read the list of books on writing skills listed under three categories and start right away without any second thought.

Even if one has already read any of the books, then it’s safer to re-read them from scratch along with a fresh point of view and with a notebook handy.

Not to worry even if one does not fit any of the above categories of writers mentioned. Grab a book that excites you the most right now as you read here, right away. The books on writing skills jump up and scratch your cheek like a hungry cat for your attention. Start with them. Just reading and thinking about it would not help you even closer. Bring it to practice. Take your time and import all the ideas and writing exercises into the current work.

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” 

                                                                                                                                                            — Mary Heaton Vorse

Top Ten Stunning Books On Writing Skills: 

When one is filled with astounding ideas and awe-inspiring views yet lacks the skill to channel it through words, the following top books on writing skills might just be what one is looking for. These books on writing skills help to rationalize and channel one’s knowledge and brain to the point of value which eventually improves one’s communication skills. From bloggers to content producers to budding novelists to aspiring poets, the below mentioned are some of the highly recommended collections of books on writing skills that will help hone an individual’s writing skills. These books on writing skills will help to write off all types of work.

While one has several half-read books on writing skills stacked up on the nightstand, several others squirrelled away in the desk drawer and many others added to the wish list searching for the perfect magic formula, these books on writing skills are just the thing one wants. These books on writing skills will transform one into a one-of-the-kind writer which the clients and the readers adore.

This magic will eventually erase off all the silent self-doubt where one keeps wondering and has the nagging thought about if one is even quite good enough of a writer.

Books have this uncanny power to teach us. If only we could find and choose the right books on writing skills, the true, tried and read books written by trusted writers, one would be invincible in expressing one’s ideas and let the creativity flow.

If one wants to become a good writer, then one must be a good read nonetheless.

“All Good Writers Are Good Readers”​

These books on writing skills are specially crafted to assist all kinds of writers- bloggers, creative writers, and also content creators. Such books on writing skills eventually speak to the heart and get to the core problem one suffers with currently. It not only changes oneself and one’s writing but also one’s life. Because somewhere mastering the craft of writing is directly proportional to the amount of reading one does. One must be regularly kept updated with the current affairs and also keep fine-tuning the skills.

Think about how magical this sounds that in the next few hours, one would have the ability at the fingertips to tap into the world’s best books on writing skills and get started with the next stages of transformation- only if one is willing to commit of one’s time.

The following books will make all the difference  

Books on mechanics of the language:.

★ Between You And Me: Confessions Of A Comma Queen;

Between you and me is the accurate book for someone who has a struggling time digesting information at the first take. It plays on the humour side of things by comically making funny references to the mistakes in grammar and punctuation like for example in The Simpsons. A stunning book that helps one truly understand the common mistakes one makes when it comes to grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc also while being able to laugh at the same time.

★ On Writing Well: The Classic  Guide To Writing Non-fiction By  William Zinsser; 

Categories – Primarily Mechanics but interwoven with thinking 

Zinsser’s writing tips have stood the test of time for all generations of writers. Such books on writing skills teach a lot of things even better than editorials, excellent grammar, etc. It significantly enhances and polishes one’s writing skills. His principles in the books of writing skills are still sound for any kind of writer, from bloggers to fiction to nonfiction and even any kind of digital publishers. The element of style by Strunk and white( William Strunk Jr and E.B. White) is another great one but writing well is the go-to book.

Books On Writing Skills Which Talks About The Frame Of Mind And Structure: 

★ save the cat by blake snyder.

Categories:​Mainly about structure. The best book on the structure.​      

Save the cat is essentially a formula book that simply focuses on the structure of Screenplays. It’s simply similar to Story Engineering (mentioned below) which also explains the structure and the element of the screenplay. Having said that this book on writing skills is more approachable. This is just like the introductory college course that teaches you the basics of the subject.

From this book on writing skills, you will learn the main story archetypes of storytelling, how to structure a good story or screenplay, and many basic subtle techniques of a screenplay like how to create a character that will attract instant audience attention. If one’s goal is to write a good and decent screenplay, then these kinds of books on writing skills like “Save the cat” is the perfect tool that will help you achieve that.

★ Story Engineering: Mastering The 6 Core Competencies Of Successful Writing By Larry Brooks: 

  Categories: Heavy on the structure.​

Compelling stories are the undercurrents that propel successful writers and bloggers of all kinds. Whether it is a blog post writing, magazine, novel, or an E-book if that does not contain a compelling story, then no one would remember you as a writer. One has to possess the ability and skill to deliver a story deftly to the audience to become memorable, an in-demand writer and loved by them all.

Story engineering is like the master class for story writing and novel writing. It mainly focuses on the six main competencies or core elements of storytelling, screenplays, or novel writing. An intense and comprehensive book that will help you take your writing a step ahead professionally if one consistently reads and applies the concepts mentioned in the book.

★ Zen In The Art Of Writing: Essays On Creativity; 

Categories: focuses on creativity.​

This book on writing skills is another magnificent book when it comes to unleashing your creativity and scaling from the common writer’s block. Ray Bradbury has wonderful tips on how to tap on one’s creative side and improve the quality of writing like writing 1000 words a day and, making writing a daily habit and bringing it into a weekly regimen, and letting oneself explode.

This book on writing skills is like getting a transfusion. Not of blood but Ray’s enthusiasm.  This book on writing skills is like getting a transfusion. Not of blood but Ray’s enthusiasm.  

★ How To Write A Damn Good Novel James N.frey:

  Categories: Primarily structure and storytelling.​

“Damn good novel” is similar to “Save the cat” which offers a structure and formula for the construction of a novel. But this book is filled with more principles of good writing and excellent examples of storytelling. By now one has figured that storytelling and structuring a good story are the critical elements and skills to becoming a great writer or even more a competent writer.

The more you read and learn about storytelling in all its forms, fiction or nonfiction, short stories, or long stories, the more tools you have in your writing toolbox. With tens of thousands of new blog posts created every day, according to WordPress.com, compelling storytelling is the only proven way to make your work stand out and your writing stand apart from the masses.

★ The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression; 

Category: expression of characters.​

The emotion thesaurus helps the writers to better their skills in terms of expressing their emotions to the readers through writing fascinatingly. Not just in terms of fictional characters but also personal stories that one wants to sell to the readers by writing in an enthralling way.

Books On Writing Skills That Help All Writers And Help Being A Writer

On writing: stephen king.

Even when one has not read any of king’s gory thrillers, this book on writing skill is a have-must, a must-read. And also one has to make it a point to re-read it once a year.

Very much a memoir, King illustrates his wild childhood stories to explain his making of the writer. Besides memorable stories, king emphasizes structure which gives us strong insights into the structure, key takeaways on mechanics and shares his opinion on what is and what is not important for a writer.

One gets to peer in his head and see how his mind formulates those bizarre ideas and crafts the unworldly plots. One will be filled with awe and inspired to see all the story writing elements one is surrounded with.

Bird By Bird: Anne Lamott; 

Categories: Being a writer interwoven with the frame of mind.

Lamott’s small book is one of the most loved books on writing skills that captivate readers’ minds with how to structure your frame of mind and the writer’s life. With rare and long-acquired storytelling skills, she adeptly and invisibly reflects her thoughts and shares her personal life experiences which engross the readers. This gives the readers a personal connection with the writer.

Writing Down The Bones:  Natalie Goldberg;

Categories-​ frame of mind and being a writer.

Goldberg’s fresh observations will reintroduce one the wonders, magic, curiosity, excitement that lured one into writing in the first place. Although an old book she still explains the skills of writing through her Zen-inspired posts on how to become a writer, how to beat procrastination, and the beauty of language.

The above mentioned are the hand-picked excellent books on writing skills which helps one to improve one’s writing skills. Hope they were helpful !!! One can always surf through this especially summarized list of books on writing skills to lay hands on when one is looking for improvising and broadening the writing skills.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Need Help? Chat Via WhatsApp

  • Business Accounting & Taxation
  • Business Analytics
  • CAT Preparation
  • Content Marketing
  • Content Writing
  • Corporate Training
  • Creative Writing
  • Data Analytics
  • Data Science
  • Digital Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance Courses
  • Financial Modeling
  • Freelancing
  • Ghostwriting
  • Institute List
  • Interviews CWMC
  • Investment Banking
  • Professional Courses
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Skill Development
  • Social Media
  • Technical Writing

You May Also Like To Read

How to pursue an aviation career in india (a detailed guide), investment banking meaning – a complete guide, your ultimate guide to ebook writing, are gst payments taxable top 25 points you need to know, 7 best instagram marketing courses in pune, can digital marketing be done from home, top 5 tools for seo analysis for website performance, 5 best content writing services in delhi, use of ai in investment banking – a detailed exposition.

writing book skills

  • Master Certification
  • Lifetime Access
  • Practical Learning
  • 24x7 Online Support

Sunday Batch - 3rd March 2024

Sunday 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM (IST)

Share Your Contact Details

  • Email This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Name This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Weekdays Batch - 27th February 2024

Tues & Thur - 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM (IST)

Saturday Batch - 24th February 2024

Saturday 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM (IST)

Download Course Brochure

  • Phone This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • 100% Placement Assistance

Weekend Batch - 25th February 2024

Every Sat & Sun - 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM (IST)

Weekend Batch - 24th Feb 2024

Every Sat & Sun - 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Request for Online DEMO

  • Comments This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Every Sat & Sun - 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (IST)

Download Mock Test

Request to speak with mba advisor, take first online coaching.

writing book skills

Talk To Our Agent

Request for a callback, start hiring.

  • Company Name *
  • Hiring for * Select Program Content Writer Digital Marketer Data Analyst Financial Modellers Technical Writer Business Accounting & Taxation Search Engine Optimization Investment Banking
  • Attach Document * Max. file size: 256 MB.
  • Company Name * First
  • Select Program Select Program Business Accounting & Taxation Course Content Writing Master Course Digital Marketing Master Course Data Analytics Master Course Financial Modeling Course Search Engine Optimization Technical Writing Master Course
  • Select Members Select Mumbers 1-5 6-20 21-50 51-100 100+
  • Additional Comments

writing book skills

  • Social Calendar [New]
  • Browse Team Building Experiences

16 Best Business Writing Books to Read in 2024

You found our list of business writing books .

Business writing books are publications that help individuals achieve effective communication by enhancing their writing skills. Examples include Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson and Business Writing by Wilma Davidson. The purpose of these books is to help individuals develop critical thinking, learn different writing styles, and improve their grammar and punctuation skills.

These books are similar to communication books , customer experience books , and customer success books . These books can help readers learn more about  internal communication tips  and  collaboration skills .

This list includes:

  • books on business writing
  • books for improving business writing
  • best selling business writing books
  • business email writing books
  • business writing skills books

Here we go!

List of business writing books

Business writing books are valuable for individuals looking to improve their writing skills and communicate more effectively and professionally. From  Business Writing for Dummies by Natalie Canavor and Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, here is a list of the best resources with insightful business writing tips.

1. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing by Bryan A. Garner

HBR Guide to Better Business Writing tops the list of books on business writing. Bryan A. Garner stresses the need to cultivate the art of writing and gain a competitive advantage in the market. The author takes readers through composing compelling documents such as emails and proposals. The book is also a handy guide for readers who want to navigate writer’s block, strike the right tone, and improve grammar and punctuation. Other notable lessons in the guide are keeping the reader’s attention and organizing ideas. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing gives readers the tools to express their ideas clearly and persuade partners, colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.

Notable quote: “All it takes is a few words to make a strong impression, good or bad.”

Read HBR Guide to Better Business Writing .

2. Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

If you are looking for business writing books, then Writing That Works is a great choice. The book will help writers say what they want with more confidence and less difficulty. The book also contains handy tips for email writing, with many examples. Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson focus on helping business writers make better presentations, letters, memos, and reports. In addition, Writing That Works incorporates lessons on crafting grant applications, sales letters, proposals, speeches, and interviews that will move the audience. One key takeaway from the publication is to be clear and concise.

Notable quote: “Take the time to boil down what you want to say, and express it confidently in simple, declarative sentences. Remember the man who apologized for writing such a long letter, explaining that he didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Read Writing That Works .

Want some free team building tools?

$49 value (100% free).

  • 100+ fully tested icebreaker questions
  • 24+ themed Bingo generators
  • 5+ PDFs (including the 8% Rule)
  • 2024 team building calendar
  • and more...

Tool Box

Enter your email for instant access

3. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes is a top choice of books for improving business writing. Ann Handley provides a guide business writers can use to attract and retain customers. The author maintains that clickbait only works in the short run and that writing skills are pivotal in driving corporate communication. Handley advises writers to be smart when choosing words and focus on the target market. Further, the author argues that online language is the current currency. Thus, the type of writing can either make you look smart or simple-minded. The book provides relevant tips for writing listicles, emails, presentations, and newsletters. With lessons that apply across landing pages, emails, blogs, web pages, and social media, Everybody Writes is the go-to guide for business owners, publishers, and marketers.

Notable quote: “So, before you begin the writing, be sure you know the purpose or mission or objective of every piece of content that you write. What are you trying to achieve? What information, exactly, are you trying to communicate? And why should your audience care?”

Read Everybody Writes .

4. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte

Resonate is a handy guide for business writers who want to grasp the art of presentation. Nancy Duarte argues that the role of presentations is to inform and persuade audiences. Thus, individuals must start by writing presentations that resonate with specific audiences. The publication will also help presenters make strong connections with audiences through visual communication cues. Duarte uses the approach of building presentations bit by bit, similar to writing documentaries.

Notable quote: “The audience does not need to tune themselves to you—you need to tune your message to them. Skilled presenting requires you to understand their hearts and minds and create a message to resonate with what’s already there.”

Read Resonate .

5. Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t by Wilma Davidson

First authored in 1994, Business Writing is a practical guide that covers pivotal lessons. This guide is one of the best business writing skills books. Wilma Davidson addresses the importance of concise, clear, and grammatically correct writing. The book’s chapters guide writers on how to make information easy to read, tone messages, and use humor to engage their audience. Other writing tricks include starting with the main points and using bulleted lists to emphasize information. The revised edition covers texts, emails, and social media to illustrate factors that create good writing. In addition, the author uses compelling examples, cartoons, and charts to engage readers. With thorough concepts, individuals searching for books for improving business writing will relish the resource.

Notable quote: “Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables, forced himself to write by disrobing and giving his clothing to his valet with strict instructions that it not be returned until he had written the allotted pages.”

Read Business Writing .

6. The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving by Barbara Minto

The Minto Pyramid Principle elaborates on how individuals can structure presentations and documents to captivate the clientele. The publication emphasizes the importance of persuasive and clear communication in business writing. In addition, the book describes tactics that major businesses can use as a competitive advantage. The Minto Pyramid Principle is a noteworthy resource for individuals who prepare written communications and readers who want to learn how to structure presentations.

Notable quote: “The best text slides convey their message as starkly and simply as possible. They do not waste words (or slides) on transitional or introductory points, which can and should be stated orally. This means of course that the slides by themselves will not be intelligible as a handout to someone who has not attended the presentation.”

Read The Minto Pyramid Principle .

7. Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez

Illuminate is a practical and illustrative guide for business writers. Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez discuss in detail how to make better presentation slides and structure content that will appeal to readers. The author uses real-world examples and case studies from notable entities like Starbucks, IBM, and Apple to explain the whys and hows of business writing.

Notable quote: “When you use the spoken word in speeches, stories, and ceremonies, reinforcing it with meaningful symbols, empathetic communication makes each moment feel significant and builds energy that makes your venture feel attainable.”

Read Illuminate .

8. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves focuses on the current grammatical state, stressing the need to be conscious of punctuation. The author uses historical examples, her imagination, literature, and neighborhood signage to explain her points. The read also contains hilarious consequences of incorrectly using apostrophes, commas, colons, and exclamation marks. The author introduces each chapter with a brief history of the topic and the current practice in British and American settings. You will also view debates from different groups on the correctness of punctuation.

Notable quote: “The reason it’s worth standing up for punctuation is not that it’s an arbitrary system of notation known only to an over-sensitive elite who have attacks of the vapors when they see it misapplied. The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning.”

Read Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

9. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

The Sense of Style uses insights from the sciences of language to help business writers craft clear and coherent pieces. The short and entertaining read shows how writing depends on an individual’s imagination, grammatical know-how, empathy, and coherence. As a linguist and cognitive scientist, Steven Pinker details how writers get into various pitfalls, such as the curse of knowledge. The author argues that writers often assume that readers know as much as they do, often leading to misinformation. The book also provides an alphabetical list of common grammatical problems and suggestions for rectifying mistakes.

Notable quote: “A writer, like a cinematographer, manipulates the viewer’s perspective on an ongoing story, with the verbal equivalent of camera angles and quick cuts.”

Read The Sense of Style .

10. Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach

Storytelling is an essential part of business writing. Unleash the Power of Storytelling helps readers break down walls and influence audiences. Rob Biesenbach includes practical examples that show how business writers can use stories to write presentations and run employee meetings and customer calls. In addition, the book will help individuals looking for business email writing books. Readers will learn how to use emotion to get an audience’s attention and deliver stories effectively. The book is a great pick that can help individuals close a sale, strengthen professional relationships, promote brands, and align individuals with strategies.

Notable quote: “Stories are all around us. We may not recognize them, but they’re there—just waiting to be found, shaped, and shared.”

Read Unleash the Power of Storytelling .

11. First You Write a Sentence.: The Elements of Reading, Writing … and Life by Joe Moran

With minimal technical terms, First You Write a Sentence will help business writers fine-tune their craft. Joe Moran focuses on the common ground that every writer walks through, a sentence. The author argues that writers can turn ordinary words into verbal constellations. First You Write a Sentence uses notable sources and scientific case studies to illustrate the art of writing compelling and clear tales. The writer also addresses business writers’ daily frustrations, such as gaping plot holes and creative blocks. Readers will also get insights into grammar rules and determining the writing voice and tone.

Notable quote: “In a fast world in pursuit of instant answers, slowness has become a dissident act. Perhaps a sentence slowly written, and slowly relished, could work in the same way, as a last redoubt against the glib articulacy of a distracted age.”

Read First You Write a Sentence .

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

On Writing Well is a valuable resource for business writers, especially in the digital age. William Zinsser discusses writing fundamentals that appeal to a diverse demographic. The resource also offers sound advice on eliminating clutter and tailoring words to the target audience. In addition, the author uses a sense of humor that makes the resource enticing. With its warmth and clarity, the book is also a top choice of best selling business writing books.

Notable quote: “Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy?”

Read On Writing Well .

13. Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite by June Casagrande and Shelly Frasier

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies is a notable resource for writers who want to learn basic grammar and punctuation. The publication is a collection of witty essays that June Casagrande and Shelly Frasier use to deliver handy lessons. The authors argue that while grammar is a simple area, writers either do not know or ignore many gray areas. Casagrande and Frasier organize the book into short chapters, making every topic easy to consume.

Notable quote: “Grammar snobs are a distinct breed from their gentle cousins: word nerds and grammar geeks. The difference is bloodlust.”

Read Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies .

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

The Elements of Style provides practical advice for individuals who want to improve their writing skills. William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White emphasize using a plain English style instead of complex terminology. The book covers business writing segments such as misuse of words, sentence fragmentation, and language structure. Strunk and White make the book engaging with the addition of sarcastic and amusing comments.

Notable quote: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

Read The Elements of Style .

15. Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots outlines communication mistakes that individuals make in the corporate world. The authors argue that businesspeople overuse jargon-filled words. As a result, the wrong choice of words interferes with individual authenticity, and the effectiveness of presentations, emails, and memos is minimal. The authors also include real-life stories detailing the awful communication prevalent in the corporate world. Why Business People Speak Like Idiots is a hilarious and light read, opposite from most business books.

Notable quote: “When they see bull, they make negative assumptions about the person or company that spews it. When they see straight talk, they think good things about the source.”

Read Why Business People Speak Like Idiots .

16. Business Writing for Dummies by Natalie Canavor

As a major part of professional success, the ability to write well is a significant hindrance for most individuals. Business Writing for Dummies is a fantastic pick of business email writing books. Natalie Canavor includes gems to help businesspeople write better presentations, reports, and emails. The author also provides editing techniques for crafting the perfect messages and tips to adapt individual writing skills to digital media. Business Writing for Dummies is a great read for marketers, managers, customer service reps, or entrepreneurs.

Notable quote: ”To quickly upgrade anything you write, use the say-it-aloud diagnosis. When you read your own copy aloud (or whisper it to yourself if you’re not alone), you get immediate signals that something isn’t working or can work better.”

Read Business Writing for Dummies .

​Conclusion

Whether you are new to business writing or a seasoned writer, there is always room to improve your skills, and a good book can help you do just that. Business writing books provide knowledge that will help readers improve their writing skills. Investing in quality business writing books and applying the principles and techniques can also help individuals attain better business results. These resources can help individuals write reports, emails, and proposals and convey ideas clearly and professionally.

Next, check out our list of sales books , business strategy books , business ethics books , and negotiation books .

FAQ: Business writing books

Here are answers to common questions about business writing books.

What are business writing books?

Business writing books are resources that provide guidance and instruction on how to write effectively in a professional or business setting. These books typically cover a range of topics related to business writing, including style, grammar, punctuation, tone, structure, and formatting.

What are the best books on business writing?

The effectiveness of communication remains critical in all business ventures. The choice of business writing books depends on what an individual wants to learn, experience level, author expertise, and relevance. Individuals can choose between business communication textbooks, writing guides, reference books, or style guides. Some of the best books business writing books include HBR Guide to Better Business Writing by Bryan A. Garner, On Writing Well by William Zinsser , and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Author avatar

Author: Grace He

People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com. Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

Get our free team building tool box

$49 value at no cost. may as well check it out.

  • Newsletters
  • Account Activating this button will toggle the display of additional content Account Sign out

The Loss of Things I Took for Granted

Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively..

Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling any text with “woke” themes from classrooms and library shelves. Though the results sometimes seem farcical, as with the banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus due to its inclusion of “cuss words” and explicit rodent nudity, the book-banning agenda is no laughing matter. Motivated by bigotry, it has already done demonstrable harm and promises to do more. But at the same time, the appropriate response is, in principle, simple. Named individuals have advanced explicit policies with clear goals and outcomes, and we can replace those individuals with people who want to reverse those policies. That is already beginning to happen in many places, and I hope those successes will continue until every banned book is restored.

If and when that happens, however, we will not be able to declare victory quite yet. Defeating the open conspiracy to deprive students of physical access to books will do little to counteract the more diffuse confluence of forces that are depriving students of the skills needed to meaningfully engage with those books in the first place. As a college educator, I am confronted daily with the results of that conspiracy-without-conspirators. I have been teaching in small liberal arts colleges for over 15 years now, and in the past five years, it’s as though someone flipped a switch. For most of my career, I assigned around 30 pages of reading per class meeting as a baseline expectation—sometimes scaling up for purely expository readings or pulling back for more difficult texts. (No human being can read 30 pages of Hegel in one sitting, for example.) Now students are intimidated by anything over 10 pages and seem to walk away from readings of as little as 20 pages with no real understanding. Even smart and motivated students struggle to do more with written texts than extract decontextualized take-aways. Considerable class time is taken up simply establishing what happened in a story or the basic steps of an argument—skills I used to be able to take for granted.

Since this development very directly affects my ability to do my job as I understand it, I talk about it a lot. And when I talk about it with nonacademics, certain predictable responses inevitably arise, all questioning the reality of the trend I describe. Hasn’t every generation felt that the younger cohort is going to hell in a handbasket? Haven’t professors always complained that educators at earlier levels are not adequately equipping their students? And haven’t students from time immemorial skipped the readings?

The response of my fellow academics, however, reassures me that I’m not simply indulging in intergenerational grousing. Anecdotally, I have literally never met a professor who did not share my experience. Professors are also discussing the issue in academic trade publications , from a variety of perspectives. What we almost all seem to agree on is that we are facing new obstacles in structuring and delivering our courses, requiring us to ratchet down expectations in the face of a ratcheting down of preparation. Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade— except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.

If we ask what has caused this change, there are some obvious culprits. The first is the same thing that has taken away almost everyone’s ability to focus—the ubiquitous smartphone. Even as a career academic who studies the Quran in Arabic for fun, I have noticed my reading endurance flagging. I once found myself boasting at a faculty meeting that I had read through my entire hourlong train ride without looking at my phone. My colleagues agreed this was a major feat, one they had not achieved recently. Even if I rarely attain that high level of focus, though, I am able to “turn it on” when demanded, for instance to plow through a big novel during a holiday break. That’s because I was able to develop and practice those skills of extended concentration and attentive reading before the intervention of the smartphone. For children who were raised with smartphones, by contrast, that foundation is missing. It is probably no coincidence that the iPhone itself, originally released in 2007, is approaching college age, meaning that professors are increasingly dealing with students who would have become addicted to the dopamine hit of the omnipresent screen long before they were introduced to the more subtle pleasures of the page.

The second go-to explanation is the massive disruption of school closures during COVID-19. There is still some debate about the necessity of those measures, but what is not up for debate any longer is the very real learning loss that students suffered at every level. The impact will inevitably continue to be felt for the next decade or more, until the last cohort affected by the mass “pivot to online” finally graduates. I doubt that the pandemic closures were the decisive factor in themselves, however. Not only did the marked decline in reading resilience start before the pandemic, but the students I am seeing would have already been in high school during the school closures. Hence they would be better equipped to get something out of the online format and, more importantly, their basic reading competence would have already been established.

Less discussed than these broader cultural trends over which educators have little control are the major changes in reading pedagogy that have occurred in recent decades—some motivated by the ever-increasing demand to “teach to the test” and some by fads coming out of schools of education. In the latter category is the widely discussed decline in phonics education in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach advocated by education expert Lucy Calkins (who has more recently come to accept the need for more phonics instruction). I started to see the results of this ill-advised change several years ago, when students abruptly stopped attempting to sound out unfamiliar words and instead paused until they recognized the whole word as a unit. (In a recent class session, a smart, capable student was caught short by the word circumstances when reading a text out loud.) The result of this vibes-based literacy is that students never attain genuine fluency in reading. Even aside from the impact of smartphones, their experience of reading is constantly interrupted by their intentionally cultivated inability to process unfamiliar words.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards , teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

We can’t go back in time and do the pandemic differently at this point, nor is there any realistic path to putting the smartphone genie back in the bottle. (Though I will note that we as a society do at least attempt to keep other addictive products out of the hands of children.) But I have to think that we can, at the very least, stop actively preventing young people from developing the ability to follow extended narratives and arguments in the classroom. Regardless of their profession or ultimate educational level, they will need those skills. The world is a complicated place. People—their histories and identities, their institutions and work processes, their fears and desires—are simply too complex to be captured in a worksheet with a paragraph and some reading comprehension questions. Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing that complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.

This is a matter not of snobbery, but of basic justice. I recognize that not everyone centers their lives on books as much as a humanities professor does. I think they’re missing out, but they’re adults and they can choose how to spend their time. What’s happening with the current generation is not that they are simply choosing TikTok over Jane Austen. They are being deprived of the ability to choose—for no real reason or benefit. We can and must stop perpetrating this crime on our young people.

comscore beacon

  • Share full article

Advertisement

Supported by

Inside the Best-Seller List

Dolly Alderton Loves Writing Peripheral Kooks

The best-selling British writer has an eye for bit players, including ones who nudge, nag, gripe and blurt inconvenient truths.

In this picture, Dolly Alderton is standing in front of a pink bedsheet that hangs from the branches of a large tree. She's wearing a blue flowered dress and her blond hair is loose around her shoulders.

By Elisabeth Egan

Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of “A Window Opens.”

Early in Dolly Alderton’s best-selling second novel, “ Good Material ,” her 31-year-old protagonist, Andy, is carrying his best friend’s son on his shoulders when the boy unleashes a stream of brutal commentary about a third-rail topic: the bald spot on the back of Andy’s head. It’s a hilarious scene — and a refreshing one. Clearly we’re in the hands of the rare author who is going to let kids be kids. We know the alternative: fictional children who are too cute, too clever or mysteriously in possession of a Yoda-like pithiness that puts adult intellect to shame.

How did Alderton, who doesn’t have children, strike a realistic chord for her young characters? She listened to her best friends’ offspring. “I spend lots of time around little mouths and little brains,” Alderton said in a phone interview. “Nothing jolts you out of a story more than when you hear children being written as an adult memory of what they were like as children.”

Indeed, Alderton thanks two members of the younger generation, Sienna and Zadie, in her acknowledgments: “For the brilliant and weird things you say and do — for helping me remember how young minds work. I love you, and I love your mums for bringing you into my life. You can borrow all of my handbags.”

Alderton didn’t formally interview these girls — that’s not a cool auntie’s style — and Gen Alpha certainly isn’t the focus of her witty, tender story of a newly single comedian finding his footing among smug marrieds (as her literary forebear Helen Fielding might have called them). She rigs a tightrope across a familiar chasm, then dances across it with Philippe Petit-like grace: “I think particularly in the mid-30s, both sides are aware of the divide between people with young children and people without young children,” Alderton said. “We’re so aware of not burdening each other with each other’s lifestyles. I just thought it was kind of ripe for comedy.”

In addition to non-nauseating children, readers can expect a full cast of fully drawn bit players in “Good Material.” There’s the surly blue-haired clerk at the storage facility; the silver-tongued scammer with the leaky houseboat; and the 78-year-old conspiracy theorist roommate. (There’s also a wise mother who knows exactly when to cue up Frank Sinatra, but she’s in more of a supporting role, as parents tend to be.) “I love writing peripheral kooks,” Alderton said. “Everyone’s life is enriched by these hidden relationships, with people who make you think or challenge your preconceptions. They’re deeply enriching in a day-to-day human way, and in a story they diversify the ensemble.”

Elisabeth Egan is a writer and editor at the Times Book Review. She has worked in the world of publishing for 30 years. More about Elisabeth Egan

TOEFL iBT ®  Test

The premier test of academic English communication

Learn more by selecting any step in your TOEFL iBT ®  journey.

TOEFL ® TestReady™

No other English language test provider has a prep offering like this — designed for you, with you. TOEFL ® TestReady ™ combines the best TOEFL iBT prep offerings with exclusive features and deeper insights to enhance your English communication skills. All feedback, recommendations, personalized insights and tips are developed by the same teams that write and produce the TOEFL iBT test.

Whether you’re just embarking on your TOEFL iBT journey or aiming to boost your scores, TOEFL TestReady can help you get further, faster, with tailored study solutions for your skill level and goals.

Your Free TOEFL TestReady Account

Create or log in to your free account now to get instant access to your personalized, one-stop prep portal and explore all of the benefits TOEFL TestReady has to offer.

What’s included?

Research shows that performance in TOEFL TestReady can help you accurately predict your score on test day. The better your performance in the portal, the more likely it is for you to achieve a higher TOEFL iBT score 1 .

Free Practice Test

Practice for your TOEFL iBT test anytime, anywhere, for free, with a full-length practice test.

  • AI-powered automated scoring
  • Performance feedback for all 4 sections
  • Personalized feedback and tips for Speaking and Writing responses

Free Activity of the Day

Log in every day to challenge yourself with a free activity from one of the 4 test sections, such as a Reading passage and related questions. This activity rotates daily.

Free Tailored Study Plan

Not sure when to start preparing for the TOEFL iBT test? Answer 5 short survey questions to generate a free interactive study plan to fit your schedule and help you stay organized, track your progress and focus on the skills you need to boost.

TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) tests simulate the real TOEFL iBT testing experience.

  • Review and answer authentic test questions.
  • Receive scores and performance feedback within 24 hours.
  • Choose from volumes that include complete tests, half tests or speaking tests.

Section Tests

Practice a section in test mode and receive a score, performance feedback and additional insights.

  • Receive estimated section score and CEFR level
  • Get personalized feedback on Speaking and Writing responses
  • Review correct and incorrect answers in the Reading and Listening sections

Section Practice

Practice a complete section at your own pace and receive immediate scores, feedback and insights to help you improve.

  • Reading and Listening: learn why your response was correct/ incorrect as well as why other response options were correct/incorrect.
  • Speaking: receive feedback on speech rate, rhythm, pronunciation, grammar, and more, plus transcripts of your responses and exemplars for comparison.
  • Writing: get specific feedback on grammar, usage, mechanics and more. Includes exemplars for comparison.

Focused Practice

Boost your skills and confidence by focusing on sets of specific question types with immediate scores, feedback and insights.

Guides & Books

Best-selling guides and books to help you prepare for the TOEFL iBT test.

The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT ® Test

This guide is a comprehensive, all-in-one reference to help you prepare for the test and get your best score. It is available in eBook and paperback formats and includes:

  • Four full-length practice tests
  • Interactive versions of all four tests, in addition to the book versions
  • valuable tips
  • scoring criteria
  • hundreds of sample questions for all four test sections

Official TOEFL iBT ® Tests, Volumes 1 & 2

Get 10 authentic, full-length TOEFL iBT tests with previous test questions. Available in paperback or eBook formats, each volume offers five practice tests and includes:

  • Interactive online versions of all five tests
  • Sample Speaking and Writing responses
  • Audio files and written transcripts for all listening passages

Learn about TOEFL iBT courses to help you prepare for your test.

Official TOEFL iBT ® Prep Course

Build the skills you need to communicate in English in an academic environment with this self-paced course. With the 6-month subscription, you’ll be able to:

  • Do in-depth lessons and activities across the 4 skills — Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing
  • Take pre- and post-tests to help you evaluate your performance
  • Receive score ranges for the Speaking and Writing post-tests, using the same automated scoring as in the actual TOEFL iBT test

You can choose one of two options:

  • The Prep Course — standard course
  • The Prep Course PLUS — everything in the standard course, plus additional scoring and feedback, including score ranges for Speaking and Writing activities and tests, and written feedback on your Speaking responses

TOEFL ® Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide

With this free self-paced course, you can learn and practice whenever it’s most convenient for you. It includes:

  • An introduction to the test and each section
  • Short quizzes
  • Collaborative discussion boards
  • Tips from expert instructors
  • Scaled-score range for Speaking and Writing practice questions
  • Information and sample questions for the new Writing for an Academic Discussion task

Value Packs

Save money when you purchase multiple prep offerings bundled together into an expertly curated package. Find discounts on test registrations, practice tests, guides, books, additional score reports and more.

Performance Insights, Feedback and Guidance

As you engage with TOEFL TestReady prep offerings, robust AI algorithms serve up valuable information to help you maximize your score potential.

Feel confident on test day! The overwhelming majority of learners we surveyed reported that the new test prep offerings and features within TOEFL TestReady boosted their confidence, improved their skills and increased their readiness for the TOEFL iBT test 2 .

Curated Prep Recommendations

Close skill gaps and focus your time more effectively and efficiently with curated prep recommendations. Receive evolving guidance on where to focus your efforts and which prep offerings to try next based on insights drawn from your past performance.

Continuous Progress Tracking

Monitor your progress in real time with tracking of overall performance, section performance and question type performance. Your personal Insights page showcases your skill trends, as well as an estimated TOEFL iBT score and CEFR level to help you gauge your readiness.

1 Source: Statistics gathered from 765 users who also took the TOEFL iBT test (China, India, and the U.S.)

2 Source: Survey of 765 users across China, India and the U.S.

IMAGES

  1. Improve Your Writing Skills: Your essential guide to accurate English

    writing book skills

  2. Academic Writing Skills 2 Student's Book by 華泰文化 Hwa Tai Publishing

    writing book skills

  3. Improve Your Skills Writing for IELTS 4 5-6 0 Student's Book with Key

    writing book skills

  4. Effective Writing Student's Book: Writing Skills for Intermediate

    writing book skills

  5. Academic Writing Skills 1 Student's Book by Peter Chin (English

    writing book skills

  6. Pattern Writing (pre-writing skills) book for 3-4 year old

    writing book skills

VIDEO

  1. how to write a book

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Book: 23 Simple Steps from a Bestseller

    Biography How to Write a Book From Start to Finish: A Proven Guide Fiction, Nonfiction The Writing Craft So you want to write a book. Becoming an author can change your life—not to mention give you the ability to impact thousands, even millions, of people. But writing a book isn't easy.

  2. How to Write a Book (with Tactics from Bestsellers)

    1. Start with a book idea you love 2. Research by reading genre-prominent books 3. Outline the story 4. Write the opening sentence 5. Write the first draft 6. Set a schedule with achievable goals 7. Find a good writing space 8. Pick a "distraction-free" writing software 9. Finish your draft 10. Edit the manuscript 11.

  3. How to Write a Book: Complete Step-by-Step Guide

    Writing How to Write a Book: Complete Step-by-Step Guide Written by MasterClass Last updated: Mar 2, 2022 • 5 min read A step-by-step guide can help new authors overcome the intimidating parts of writing a book, allowing them to stay focused and maximize their creativity.

  4. 10 Amazing Books That Will Improve Your Writing Skills

    Here are two simple truths— writing skills can be taught, and all good writers are also readers. What better way to accomplish two things at once than to read books about writing? Back in the late '90s, I owned and managed one of the first websites to offer online workshops especially for writers.

  5. Skills You Need to Write a Book

    An inherent passion and urge to write forms the beginning path of many writers, as does a love for reading and storytelling as a whole. That thirst and need to write leads you to learn more about the skills you require to write a book. Here's a primer on what you should know to get started on your writer's journey.

  6. 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

    1. Review grammar and spelling basics. Grammar and spelling form the foundation of good writing. Writing with proper grammar and spelling communicates your professionality and attention to detail to your reader. It also makes your writing easier to understand.

  7. 17 Writing Tips You Can Use Today [From Experts!]

    Here are top writing tips to improve as a writer: Write what you want to read. Write with intention. Use psychology when writing. Write as often as you can. Eliminate distractions. Research storytelling and story structure. Always get feedback for writing. Focus on new ways to phrase common visuals.

  8. How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills and How to Build Them

    4 Problems With Books That Aren't Good My book was plagued by four major problems. 1. Terrible Structure The book had a terrible structure due to lack of planning. It dragged in some places and covered too much too fast at others. I didn't advance plot in a way that made sense.

  9. 20 Best Writing Skills Books of All Time

    The 20 best writing skills books recommended by Yashar Ali, Ken Norton, Rolando Gómez, Daniel Summers and James Altucher.

  10. Top 10 Books to Improve Your Writing Skills

    If you want to show up your creative skill with your writing skills, then you must read the following books to cope up your skills easily —. 3. Stein On Writing — Sol Stein. If you're ready to dig into the nuts and bolts of great writing and you want to truly improve at your craft, this book is a master class by a veteran editor, author ...

  11. 10 Best Books To Improve Your Writing Skills

    Best for aspiring writers. Click For Latest Price. Zen in the Art of Writing explores the creative process behind some of the most famous works of literature, including The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and more. Zen in the Art of Writing is one of the most influential books for a reason.

  12. Writing for Success

    It is a comprehensive book introducing writing skills. This book covers all the necessary writing basics, from words, sentences, and paragraphs to the whole essay. The authors also provide detailed instructions on the steps of writing. read more Reviewed by Seo Lee, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin - Superior on 8/21/21

  13. 30 Writing Tips to Help You Improve Your Writing Skills

    1 Set writing goals. Maybe you want to write a certain number of words per day or upgrade your vocabulary. You can't reach a goal unless you have one, so write that goal down and work toward it. Write with confidence. Get real-time writing suggestions, wherever you write. Write with Grammarly.

  14. 10 Best Books on Writing Skills You Must-Read to Level Up

    Most books about writing, like "On Writing Well" and which is mentioned next, are the children of The Elements of Style; an extension, if you will. Named by Time as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923, there's hardly any better book to start working on your writing skills than with The Elements of ...

  15. How to Write a Book Review: The Ultimate Guide

    The real value of crafting a well-written book review for a student does not lie in their ability to impact book sales. Understanding how to produce a well-written book review helps students to: Engage critically with a text. Critically evaluate a text. Respond personally to a range of different writing genres.

  16. Top 10 books about creative writing

    Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to...

  17. The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

    1. On Writing by Stephen King Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America's leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s.

  18. The Writing With Skill Series

    The Writing With Skill Series The three levels of Writing With Skill prepare students for advanced high-school or college-level writing. These textbooks and student books combine time-tested classical techniques-the imitation and analysis of great writers-with original composition exercises in history, science, biography, and literature.

  19. Amazon.com: Writing Skills: Books

    Writing Skill Reference Best sellers See more $499 My First Book of Patterns: Pencil Control 25,137 $939 $17.00 Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 7,776 $594 $6.75 Cursive Handwriting Workbook for Teens: A cursive writing practice workbook for young adults and teens (Master Print and Cursive Writing Penmanship for Teens) 9,599

  20. Writing Skills Books

    Writing Skills Books Showing 1-50 of 663 The Elements of Style (Hardcover) by William Strunk Jr. (shelved 22 times as writing-skills) avg rating 4.18 — 83,433 ratings — published 1918 Want to Read Rate this book 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars 3 of 5 stars 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Mass Market Paperback) by

  21. What Are Writing Skills and How Do You Improve Them?

    9. Use tech tools as aids—not substitutes. There are plenty of programs and plug-ins that claim to "fix" your writing, such as WritingProAid, Sapling, Grammarly, and even the spelling and grammar checkers built into word processors. These tools can make it easier to write well, Smith says.

  22. Top 10 Books on Writing Skills To Upskill Yourself

    Ray Bradbury has wonderful tips on how to tap on one's creative side and improve the quality of writing like writing 1000 words a day and, making writing a daily habit and bringing it into a weekly regimen, and letting oneself explode. This book on writing skills is like getting a transfusion. Not of blood but Ray's enthusiasm.

  23. 16 Best Business Writing Books to Read in 2024

    16 Best Business Writing Books to Read in 2024. You found our list of business writing books. Business writing books are publications that help individuals achieve effective communication by enhancing their writing skills. Examples include Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson and Business Writing by Wilma Davidson.

  24. In History: Toni Morrison on why 'writing for black people is tough'

    One of the great 20th-Century novelists, Morrison consciously aimed her work at black American readers. In a 2003 interview, she told the BBC about why that made her writing sing.

  25. Opinion

    For more than two decades, I've taught versions of this fiction-writing exercise. I've used it in universities, middle schools and private workshops, with 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds.

  26. Literacy crisis in college students: Essay from a professor on students

    Ten years into my college teaching career, students stopped being able to read effectively. Recent years have seen successive waves of book bans in Republican-controlled states, aimed at pulling ...

  27. Dolly Alderton Loves Writing Peripheral Kooks

    Dolly Alderton Loves Writing Peripheral Kooks. The best-selling British writer has an eye for bit players, including ones who nudge, nag, gripe and blurt inconvenient truths. "Children feel ...

  28. TOEFL TestReady

    No other English language test provider has a prep offering like this — designed for you, with you. TOEFL ® TestReady ™ combines the best TOEFL iBT prep offerings with exclusive features and deeper insights to enhance your English communication skills. All feedback, recommendations, personalized insights and tips are developed by the same teams that write and produce the TOEFL iBT test.