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I keep "On writing well" close to me when writing something long. What other books would you recommend on the topic of good writing-style in English?

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I encourage you to have a look at Writers.SE for a question of this type. –  Kosmonaut Jan 28 '11 at 15:31
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closed as off topic by kiamlaluno, Kosmonaut Jan 28 '11 at 15:31

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3 Answers

Books on writing should be dipped into and savoured; therefore, it's nice to have as many as you can afford. In fact, once you start collecting books on writing, it will become difficult to stop. I like Stephen Wilburs' Keys to Great Writing and William Zinsser's On Writing Well. Both are written in a friendly, conversational style, but where Wilbers lays out plenty of lists and rules, Zinsser does not, opting instead to let you take what you want from him, and he has much to offer. More technical books include Joseph M. Williams's Style Toward Clarity and Grace, which is excellent for academics and those looking for something more weighty. If you want to know what it means to push new information to the right and to improve cohesion, among other things, then this is the book for you. A simpler, more practical book would be Longknife and Sullivan's The Art of Styling Sentences. This slim tome, which has almost the appearance of a school textbook, is based on the premise of imitating sentence patterns to learn to write correct sentences. Anyone who has been set this exercise using, perhaps, Samuel Johnson's prose will attest to how powerful it can be. This is a useful book for teachers, too. There are many more books on the market. If you're in academia, a related book would be Chicago University's The Craft of Research by the much respected trio of Booth, Colomb and Williams. I can't praise this book enough. As for Strunk and White's Elements of Style, it's handy to have, but its brevity will leave you wanting more. I think there is not one book on writing that covers everything on the subject, so I recommend you begin your own prized collection on this. Enjoy the buffet, and don't lend your books to anyone; they might never come back. :-)

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Forgive me, Eli, I forgot that you mentioned 'On Writing Well'. –  Sky Red Jan 18 '11 at 9:43
Great answer, thank you :) –  Eli Bendersky Jan 25 '11 at 14:31
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I think punctuation is the key to good, clear writing.

For a great simple guide, try Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

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Punctuation is one element of good, clear writing, but very far from being the most important. –  Colin Fine Jan 6 '11 at 16:58
In fact, punctuation is important. Which is why Lynne Truss titled her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Note the comma after the first word. :) –  Robusto Jan 6 '11 at 20:37
@Robusto: yes, the pun is cute, but I agree with Colin that there's more to writing than punctuation! –  Eli Bendersky Jan 7 '11 at 5:30
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Strunk & White's The Elements of Style is invaluable. The first edition can be found online here; it's currently in the fourth edition.

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