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on 10 September 2004
As somewhat who communicates for a living, I recently purchased The Little Red Writing Book to add to my personal library. Notwithstanding its hard cover, this book clearly reminded me of an earlier soft cover classic, The Elements of Style. I couldn't help reviewing both books while noting their similarities and differences. Here's my take.
The Elements of Style is really a grammar book with a dose of style added. The Little Red Writing Book is foremost a writing skills book with grammar added. Case in point: The Elements of Style devotes half its coverage to "rules of usage" and "words and expressions commonly misused"; it doesn't even address structure, whereas The Little Red Writing Book wastes no time in discussing the "top-down approach to writing" and the "high school five-paragraph approach to writing". In terms of writing style, the essence of The Elements of Style is "cut out unnecessary words", while the gist of The Little Red Writing Book is "be specific, give adequate support for what you say".
The Elements of Style contains no exercises. The Little Red Writing Book does, and this is an indisputable strength of this book, for I know of no other small book that deals with writing and also contains short exercises. I have secretly marveled at writing books that attempt to teach writing without providing exercises. Of course, any handbook of English grammar will contain exercises, but its thickness will prove intimidating for all but the bravest student.
Which brings me to another point. In dividing the world of writing books into manuals, handbooks, and pocketbooks, there certainly exist a number of excellent books in the first two of these categories. The Chicago Manual of Style and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage are examples of renowned manuals; Warriner's English Grammar and Composition and Prentice-Hall Handbook for Writers are just two of many superb handbooks.
The Little Red Writing Book brought home to me the idea of all-roundedness. All of the pocketbooks that I've reviewed to-date are focused on grammar. TLRWB is broad reaching and the book's introduction highlights this:
*Writing has four pillars-structure, style, readability, and grammar-and each pillar is like the single leg of a sturdy chair. Structure is really about organization and deciding in which order to present your ideas. Style describes how one writes, including how to use specific examples to support what is written. Readability is about presentation, and how to make a document visually pleasing and easy to read. Grammar, including diction, is about expressing language in a correct and acceptable form.*
One of my pet peeves with other writing books and writing courses is that they focus on grammar. I believe this has in large part led to the belief that if a person masters grammar, then he or she has mastered writing. I know people who can write technically correct sentences but are still not effective writers. As TLRWB points out, writing is based on macro elements as well. Grammar, including spelling and punctuation, represents only a single leg.
In my assessment, this is the most all-rounded small writing book in the market today. It's "fun" too. I would most highly recommend it to any high school or college student. (I've left my copy at the office to "encourage" a few colleagues to review basic writing fundamentals for themselves.)
Other recommendations. My four favorite grammar/punctuation books include: The Elements of Style (the best of grammar in the shortest period of time), Write Right! (this book's emphasis is on punctuation but in a very distilled manner), The Penguin Guide to Punctuation (excellent for understanding the differences in punctuation between American and British English) and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire (a grammar book built around the eight parts of speech and written with real verve).
I should point out that I've concentrated on non-fiction books in this review. My two favorite "fiction writing" books include Stephen King's On Writing and John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist.
P.S. I also judge a book in terms of its memorable lines, and this book has its share. "An airline pilot never leaves the runway without having a destination and flight pattern." (page 13; refers to writing structure); "A valued technique, which can be used when writing rough drafts, is to stress the point you wish to make by placing 'for example' immediately after what you write." (page 38; refers to support techniques); "Unpolished writing is like shifting sand in a desert storm. Eventually the storm ceases and the sand sits still." (page 99; refers to readability and the need to let writing "sit" before being called finished); "It is said that 90 percent of writers can use the comma correctly 75% of the time, but only 1 percent of writers can use the comma correctly 99 percent of the time. (page 132; refers to punctuation).
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on 9 September 2013
I'm a PhD student and bought this on the recommendation of a professor. Essentially the book is made up of chapters which each take a recommendation and elaborate on it with examples and quizzes. The presentation of the book is stunning and it's a pleasure to read; it's also a short book so it won't take long to get through it.

In terms of content, I didn't come away from the book feeling as though I had learned a lot. Maybe the advice is more suited to new writers who haven't attended writing courses or haven't already read books on how to improve writing. That said, it's a useful refresher of concepts that you may already be familiar with just need reminding of. I'll certainly revisit this book in a few months just to go through the guidelines and remind myself of them.
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on 1 October 2011
The Little Red Writing Book is a useful aide memoire if you regularly write for a hobby or a living. That said, it is far from a panacea and feels padded in certain places (such as the patronisingly obvious sections on layout and headings) and insufficiently detailed in other places (where it brings in complex grammatical rules and concepts).

It had me reaching for Google for additional background on several areas, when a book of this type should be "self contained". I don't regret owning the book as ultimately it is useful even if it is limited, but I am wondering whether another resource might have been a better investment.
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on 5 October 2004
The Little Red Writing Book is simply one of the best books published on the topic of writing. Brandon Royal's handy book is perfect for students, professionals, and others who want to improve their writing skills. Royal's text is also an excellent reference guide if you want to brush up on grammatical and style rules that you may have forgotten in the years after your formal education. Overall, the Little Red Writing book is one of the most useful texts I have used for essay writing.
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on 22 March 2016
Due to the speed of deliver, your service it has allowed me to get on with my strategy and plans for launch the business targeting people, particularly at universities, to gain wealth from their writing. Great book and I am looking forward to put it on the reading list, as part of the marketing and sales plans.
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on 6 November 2011
Writing skill is usually more the product of many hours of writing than a quickly acquired skill, more akin to learning music than to learning how to drive. Of course, to improve our writing we need to learn grammar, punctuation and structure, but only through practice can we learn how to apply these effectively. Although writing is a process of growth, every so often we need to look over the basics, and every book like this can help us to fine-tune our craft in the same way a musician might play some scales.

The 'Little red writing book', despite the unlikely title, offers good tuition from a good tutor. It addresses many of those structural issues that plague writers before quickly recapping all the necessary grammar, looking over those basic things we learned but now occasionally forget. The book presents a manageable set of principles, which are clearly explained before being tested through exercises, and then after this mini course, the book is presented in summarised form.

Another book which is very useful and 'minimalistic' is It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences, which, although it doesn't contain exercises, has some very interesting material. Also Sin and Syntax has a different approach, examining the effect values of various grammatical constructions. Reading these books will help, but practice is the only way to find your unique 'writer's voice'. All you writers - good luck on your journey!

As with other books like this, the grammatical information presented in this book is more of a recap for those who know than a course for beginners - I for one would find concepts such as nominalisation hard to grasp if this were my first encounter with the idea. If you've read quite a lot of this sort of material already, don't expect any principles that will transform your writing, but enjoy a fun course.
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on 12 December 2011
Halfway through writing my PhD thesis, I bought this. I hoped that it would help with expository writing, and was not disappointed. The book primarily focuses not on grammar but on rhetorical structure, which is precisely what I wanted. It provides a list of simple principles, followed by grammatical rules for good style. Each principle is small and simple enough for the reader to understand quickly and easily. Exercises are given in some chapters, with sample answers in the back.

After absorbing some of the themes in the Little Red Writing Book, I was astounded at the number of faults in my earlier writing. The explicit principles it lists gave me confidence in revising my work and the results are a clear improvement upon the originals.
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on 3 September 2004
The perfect gift for students, professionals and anyone who has to write. Not only does this book contain the "good oil" on writing, it is magnificently presented. The book's size, hardcover, illustrations and color make it a writer's reference that begs to be read. Don't let the books title fool you, there is nothing "little" about this writing book! Congratulations to author, Brandon Royal, on a modern look at writing that surely outdoes some of the older texts currently on the market.
Buy youself a present now!
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on 3 September 2004
'Avoid needless words,' say Strunk & White in 'The Elements of Style'. Many reference books for writers break this rule immediately. Brandon Royal manages to keep his 'Little Red Writing Book' concise. A handsome hardcover book with illustrations that take away some of the tedium present in plain texts. I heartily recommend it.
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on 12 August 2004
They say you can't judge a book by its cover. But the material inside this book is every bit the equal of its beautiful covering. Bravo. I toast the author and his publisher.
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