This is one of the first volumes in a new series of anthologies of articles previously published in Harvard Business Review. In most of them, several co-authors share their insights concerning a major business subject, as is also true of volumes in other such series, notably HBR Essentials, HBR Must Reads, and HBR Management Tips, HBR Guides offer great value in several ways. Here are two: Cutting-edge thinking from many experts in the given subject or from 25-30 sources in a single volume at a price (about $10.90 from Amazon in the bound version) for a fraction of what article reprints would cost.
In this volume, Bryan A. Garner created the material to help those who read this book to improve in areas that include overcoming writer's block, grabbing - and then keeping - readers' attention, earning credibility with especially tough audiences, trimming the fat from the message's "muscle," setting and then sustaining the right tone, and meanwhile, brushing up on the basics (i.e. grammar, punctuation, and usage). For those in need of further assistance, Garner provides a comprehensive bibliography, "Desk References," to which I presume to add Stephen King's On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft.
The material is carefully organized within Four Sections: Delivering the Goods Quickly and Clearly (Chapters 1-7), Developing Your Skills (Chapters 8-15), Avoiding the Quirks That Turn Readers Off (Chapters 16 & 17), and Common Forms of Business Writing (Chapters 18-21). Readers will especially appreciate the six appendices that follow that are chock full of valuable tips and reminders. These appendices will also facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.
I commend Garner on his brilliant use of reader-friendly devices throughout the book. They include checklists of key points from various sources such as a series of paragraph openers from Manuel G. Velasquez's Business Ethics (2011) in Chapter 13, "Be a stickler for continuity." Also, "NOT THIS" -- "BUT THIS" juxtapositions to illustrate a solution to a common problem and recaps of key points in each chapter.
These are among the passages that caught my eye, listed to suggest the scope of Garner's coverage:
o Know why you're writing (Pages 3-6) o Divide the writing process into four separate tasks (13-17) o Be relentlessly clear (43-48) o Be plain-spoken: Avoid Bizspeak (57-65) o Don't anesthetize your reader (91-97) o Performance appraisals (133-138) o Appendix C: Punctuation Rules You Absolutely Need to Know (153-161) o Appendix F: A Primer of Good Usage (169-197)
If you need assistance in any of these and other areas, Garner's book will be of invaluable assistance now as well as in months and years to come.
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This is one of the best books around - Ones that you get to the end of and realize rereading it will never provide the same sense of pleasure. And it covers what most would consider a fairly dry topic.
For me, the book was more than worth its money. As a consultant, writing is a significant area of my job and i found atleast three a-ha moments: 1. There is process to writing. I would often merge content creation with edit. As the book argues, this tends to slow you down. The 4 Phases process of writing is great. It helps you go past the writer's block. An it lets you do this efficiently and comprehensively. 2. Grammar is very well covered. There are always those little things that confuse you even if your basics are clear. This book does a great job covering a lot of basic rules that you need to get right. 3. We get a definitive opinion on writing style. Ever wondered why NYT articles are a breeze? so did I. Reading the transitions chapter answered the question for me. Now, editing is about trying to make sentences flow together.
Cannot really fault the book in any way - it will be on my Kindle PC application handy for when I write the next proposal or report!
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I really enjoyed reading this straightforward and helpful volume, in the most part. I especially liked the Betty S. Flowers' model quoted and described in Chapter 3: Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge. That made so much practical sense to me.
I qualified my first sentence with the phrase: "in the most part". That is because the book seemed to break its own guidance on language. Chapter 2 focuses on understanding your readers: they may not have technical understanding. That understanding of language was a major block to me when it came to Appendix B concerning grammatical rules. I regard myself as being a literate person with a reasonably sound knowledge of English grammar. This appendix demonstrated to me that there is a lot of technical language concerning grammar that I do not understand. Some examples are: "appositive","correlative conjunctions", and "illusory compounds". To be fair to the author, the terms are defined, but for me the flow of the book dried up at this point. A pity.