We are in the process of compiling a curated list of books that were written to help writers hone their craft. We are only including books that we have personally read and found useful. If you have any suggestions for books we should consider adding, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you wind up making a purchase, we get a small commission. This is paid by Amazon, and does not affect your purchasing price.)
Strunk and White, The elements of style is the granddaddy of style guides, written by Cornell professor William Strunk, Jr. and expanded upon by his former student, E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. It has been regularly updated over the decades to keep it relevant. Some of the advice is just plain obvious (Don’t use periods instead of commas) and some is debatable (avoid the passive voice). Nonetheless, it has helped generations of writers improve their writing, not least by imploring them to “omit needless words!” (Check reviews and prices on Amazon here.)
Steven Pinker, A sense of style This should be mandatory reading for every university freshman, as a preventative measure against adopting bad practices from the terrible academic writing they will inevitably be subjected to. Pinker plays the role of the little boy in The Emperor has no Clothes, stating that if a piece of writing is incomprehensible to the target audience, it is not the fault of the audience, but rather the writer who has failed to communicate effectively. One of the main messages is that good writing is clear and comprehensible.
Pinker’s focus on the practicality of writing does not preclude his appreciation for the beauty of the written word: “Style, not least, adds beauty to the world. To a literate reader, a crisp sentence, an arresting metaphor, a witty aside, an elegant turn of phrase are among life’s greatest pleasures.” (Check reviews and prices on Amazon here.)
Stephen King, On writing: a memoir of the craft This is not a dry style guide. The first half is a memoir of sorts where King outlines events that contributed to his development as a writer. It begins with recollections of King’s childhood: “TV came relatively late to the King household, and I’m glad. I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit.”
In the second half, King tries to answer all the questions he has been asked over the years, as well as those he, as he puts it, wishes he had been asked. He covers a diverse range of topics, ranging from stylistic questions to how to get an agent. (Check reviews and prices on Amazon here.)