Think of this as the right stuff.
Oops! We meant write stuff.
That spell check! Ever have to the read “tot he?”
There was once a time when people thought that, with the dawn of the digital age, writing (and proofing) would go extinct. When we had super fast, easily accessible means of communication, why would we need to craft each sentence carefully? The fact is, however, that we read and write more than ever before. Many of us are thrown into this constant stream of written communication clasping only the writing process we learned in high school: rigid formulas, arcane numbered outlines, and endless drafts.
Nor is our writing limited to the digital sphere. There are countless occasions when we need to express our thoughts in the written form: applying for schools or jobs, inviting guests to weddings and baby showers, giving presentations or sales pitches at work. Thankfully, Dr. Laura Brown, a writer and writing coach with thirty years’ experience, addresses every conceivable situation in How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide (W. W. Norton & Company, $35.00). There has never been a guide as comprehensive as this to writing in all its forms: from business e-mails to Facebook status updates to holiday family newsletters.
This comprehensive, yet engaging, guide is divided into three parts. In the first, Brown introduces a new tool, the writing “spinner,” which puts control of the writing process in your hands. There are six basic aspects to writing: understanding your purpose, considering your audience, brainstorming your content, organizing it in the most effective order, writing a draft, and revising. Brown, however, makes it clear that successful writers know that you can practice these steps in any order. Brown encourages you to find the way that is most comfortable and efficient for your life.
In the second section of the book, Brown pays special attention to the ever-growing world of “e-writing.” Yes, the new genres of communication—instant messages, texts, blog posts, e-mails—offer unprecedented opportunity to reach readers. But they also come with whole new challenges, like keeping your reader’s preferred mode of communication in mind and giving yourself time to revise that e-mail even if it needs to go out immediately.
Finally, the bulk of Brown’s book is an encyclopedic guide to different writing tasks and how to handle them. Each entry applies all the steps on the “spinner” and includes model outlines, annotated examples, and dos-and-don’ts. Writing in Your Personal Life includes helpful tips spanning birth announcements, apologies, wedding invitations, notes to teachers, letters to get out of jury duty, and obituaries. “Writing at School” covers the basics of note taking and bibliographies, the compare/contrast essay, lab report, and school newspaper article. It also offers tips on written communications for the academic environment, such as e-mail requesting a recommendation from a teacher or professor. “Writing at Work” contains advice on expected communiqués such as business e-mails, letters, and memos, but it also includes previously unaddressed forms such as the business apology, instant message, interview follow-up note, Facebook status update, invoice, and resignation letter.
Useful, clear, and encyclopedic, this book is an essential guide for every household. Written with an open, accessible style and designed for the way we communicate today,
Think of this as the right stuff.