Book review: Be a better writer. Tips to improve your writing – no matter what you write!

As Information Developers, we need to perfect the skill of writing well, and the scope of our writing is not limited only by creating technical instructions. We should be equally good at creating web content, articles, or blog posts. Besides, one day we might even need to write some sort of a document that we have never dealt with before, for example, a business report or promo brochure. In this situation, we can spend hours googling and processing tons of contradictory or ill-structured information. Or, get our hands on the book “Be a better writer. Tips to improve your writing – no matter what you write!” by Suzanne Lieurance, saving us time and giving us quick directions.

Once upon a time, I was surfing the web in search of a portion of good educational read and stumbled upon an e-book with a catchy title “Be a better writer. Tips to improve your writing – no matter what you write!”.

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Although being advised not to do so, we often do judge a book by its cover (or title), don’t we? I have to admit that looking at this book’s title, I was at first a bit skeptical about its content. Somehow, it seemed to me that the book promised to reveal the greatest secret of all: how to write well 24/7, no matter what. And we all know those kinds of miracles do not happen, right?

So guess what happened next? I started reading, and I changed my skeptical attitude. I understood the purpose and saw the merits of this book. And here is my impression: this book, or rather reference, is really worth reading, or at least going through, whether you are an Information Developer, sales manager, student, or an aspiring novelist.

What the book has to offer (warning: minor spoilers ahead)

Get your writing done faster and easier

The author—Suzanne Lieurance—is a professional writer, writing coach, and former teacher with an impressive collection of publications and writing courses. Her book, aimed at a broad audience, is written in a clear, concise, and simple manner. It is a short publication, and as such, it delivers the gist that is easy to grasp and remember. The purpose of the book, in the author’s own words, is to give reference to those who might not be professional writers, but who, at some point in their life, need to “write something on a professional level at one time or another”. This utilitarian purpose dictates the book’s modular form. The author advises us to start reading with the introductory “Overall Writing Tips” section, and then just choose the needed topic.

Inside, you will find 12 chapters, eight of them focusing on a specific type of writing:

  • Web content
  • Magazine articles
  • Sales copy
  • Fiction and nonfiction for children
  • Business materials
  • Resumes
  • Personal essays
  • Letters of complaint and cover letters

Each section includes a final checklist and a list of resources for further reading, both online and printed. The final section contains a general self-editing checklist for any type of writing.

Sounds impressive, huh? “But what’s in it for us, Information Developers?” – I can hear you say. Indeed, there is no section about technical writing in this book. Still, many of the general writing tips, presented in a short and clear form and illustrated with examples, fit nicely into TechComm best practices.

For me, such overall tips as “Use precise verbs and nouns”, “Watch for words you tend to overuse”, and “Write tight” will be definitely useful. Additionally, I have paid special attention to the “Tips for Writing Web Content” section, where the tips “Start with keywords and keyword phrases” and “Use the inverted pyramid style”, the latter used by journalists, are my favorites.

For example, if you use the “inverted pyramid” style of presenting information, “readers can easily scan the material for the most important points (which will be in the first two or three paragraphs)”.

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How to use the book

Use this e-book as a reference

Apart from the “traditional” linear reading—section after section—the book can be used in different ways in the following cases:

  • You have to quickly write a specific kind of text but have no relevant experience:
    Go through the related section.
  • You are a beginning writer/Information Developer and need a quick start guide to the basics:
    Read the “Overall tips” section (at the very least), and pay special attention to the list of recommended reading.
  • You are an experienced writer/Information Developer and know all the best practices:
    Use the self-editing checklists. You may know all the theory, but in practice, you tend to overlook errors. The checklists are designed to help you evaluate your text more critically and avoid many typical pitfalls. As the author suggests, these checklists can actually be used twice—before and after the text is written.

Conclusions

What I especially liked about the book is that each section presents the needed information, answering the reader’s question: “So what exactly should I do?” Being seemingly simple and yet informative, providing bulleted points and checklists, each section is very easy to digest and remember. Actually, such concise and well-structured book reminds me of a quick reference or a guide that could well have been written by an Information Developer.

In my personal rating, this book falls under the category “Practical writing tips, to be revised every now and then”. It is worth taking its place on a virtual bookshelf of anyone who writes.

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