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12 Best Books on Writing Skills to Become a Better Writer

William Ellis

September 9, 2022

In this article, you can expect to learn about the best writing books on the market today that was created to help you become a powerful, effective, and persuasive writer.

Since the dawn of the personal computer, the democratization of writing has only increased. Now, so long as you have the dedication, it is easier than ever to write something and get it in front of the eyes of a reader. For the most part, this has been a good thing.

However, due to that accessibility, there has been an influx of writers who may have raw talent but have not cultivated true writing skills. Fortunately, it has never been easier for a person to sharpen up their writing skills.

How can I improve my writing skills?

When it comes to becoming a better writer, it takes a lot of practice, rough drafts, and revisions. But in order to have successful writing, you need to know how to get better at effective writing. It’s not just knowing how to write grammatically correct, but how to entrap your audience so they can’t wait to read more.

Here are some best practices at a high level to improve your writing skills:

  • Write consistently
  • Improve your sentence structure
  • Increase your grammar knowledge
  • Finesse your writing process
  • Learn how to really proofread your work
  • Find a mentor or teacher for feedback
  • Improve your writing with the feedback continuously
  • Write some more

In addition, there are writing tools out there that can help you become a better writer, whether it’s creative writing for a novel, business writing for proposals, or improving your academic writing skills for research papers. 

Not only are there numerous resources online that can help you improve your writing skills, but there is also an old-fashioned source of help that never goes out of fashion: books. 

While it may seem odd to read about how to write better, you're not just studying writing styles. You're learning about all of the quirks and pitfalls that come in the writing world that these authors can teach you from their own experiences.

There are countless books available to help teach you how to hone your writing skills. Here is a collection that will help you not only develop your grammar and spelling, but will help you to develop a style, keep an eye out for errors, and reach new heights as a writer.

Best books on writing skills

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Alt text: Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley
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This book is for the more seasoned writer who is beginning to publish their content online and wants to know how to make their writing appeal to the masses of internet-based audience. With a focus on building empathy with your customers and fully defining your image in an online world, Everybody Writes has everything you need to put yourself out there in a unique manner.

In today's world, where everyone is online, Ann Handley has chosen to show ways that you can be unique and authentic while simultaneously building out your brand. Having your brand's personality fleshed out and solid will help you build trust and familiarity with your readers, something that you should not underrate in today's marketplace.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Stein on Writing: Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers by Sol Stein
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Sol Stein is famous for being an editor as opposed to a writer. That is what makes this writing book so valuable. 

It does not focus on writing theory or the intangibles of writing. Instead, Stein on Writing focuses almost entirely on examining one's writing skill, finding its flaws, and then correcting them. It teaches the reader to think like an editor.

Stein uses examples from both student writers and published professionals to highlight the difference between the two skill levels. Stein wants to give you the skills you need to write better by scrutinizing your work without agonizing over it. By putting your feet to the fire, so to speak, you will develop your confidence, style, and, most importantly, competence as a writer.

Write Tight by William Brohaugh

Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Want with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh
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Every writer struggles sometimes with being unable to put words onto paper, but few talk about the opposing problem: wordiness. Wordiness is writing lots of words without really saying anything of worth at all. This book goes into the details of why this happens and how best to correct it.

Write Tight is written by William Brohaugh, a former editor of Writer's Digest who knows all about how to guide you into more concise writing without feeling like you're losing the message you want to get across. 

With in-book tests that pinpoint your specific pitfalls, streamlined counseling on how to write more efficiently, and even outlines at all the different levels of wordiness, Write Tight truly helps to bring your work together.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
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Some people feel that the standards of writing over the last couple of decades have fallen sharply, particularly when compared with “text speech” used so often on the internet and in text messages. It seems sometimes as though today's writers do not know how to properly string together two words, let alone with any eloquence.

Harvard professor Steven Pinker sympathizes with people who feel that way.

His book, The Sense of Style, takes a critical eye to the fallen standards of grammar and style in today's writing climate, but never a tone of condemnation. In fact, the book often advocates that one must know the rules of writing so that one may effectively bend them.

This book will enable a writer to avoid the pitfalls that many modern writers fall into, primarily poor use of grammar and language. This book will teach both new and experienced writers how to truly master the use of language, syntax, and style in their writing.

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
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While the integration of social media and networking into writing has infuriated some traditionalists, that does not change the fact that it is necessary for this day and age. Without keen directional insight into how to sell yourself (and where), your writing is sure to go nowhere.

That being said, You Are a Writer goes over the potential mishaps and benefits of all that social media can offer. From showing you what good writing truly is to why branding is so important, Goins guides you through the process of realizing you are finally a writer and what that truly entails.

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
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Whether you are working in journalism or narrative fiction, it is agreed upon that there are tools used by writers to make their work effective. Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools is a book that is designed to help writers in every field, from short story to fiction writers.

This book is broken down into four sections: "Nuts and Bolts," "Special Effects," "Blueprints for Stories," and "Useful Habits.”

Each section is designed to address a specific tool in the writer's proverbial box. Whether you need to learn how to craft stories, use better writing mechanics, or create for yourself the right conditions for you to be able to write, this book will give you everything that you need. No matter what sort of writer you are, there is something for you in Writing Tools.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
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The Elements of Style is over one hundred years old. However, every piece of information within its pages is still relevant to all writers. It is an instructional on the English language and the principles of using it to become a more effective writer. 

By mastering language, the reader can begin to develop their writing style.

There have been numerous revisions to this book throughout the last century, but perhaps the most famous edition is the one that was overseen by Strunk's former student, renowned children's author, E.B. White. Don't let the age of this book fool you, it can still teach you some amazing writing techniques.

The Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith

The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing by Hazel Smith
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A big part of developing one's writing skills comes in finding one's voice. Being confident in one's voice is the same as being comfortable in one's skin. The Writing Experiment is a book that encourages good writers to treat their writing as an exploration or experiment.

By experimenting with your writing, you will eventually discover the things that give your work its style. Best of all, it covers numerous genres and platforms, such as fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry, and even new media. This means that no matter what kind of writer you are, there is something in this book that will help you begin your experiments.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Story Genius by Lisa Cron
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One of the worst fears every writer has is that they will write their hearts out, putting their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages, only to find that their book is a well-written dud. There is nothing worse for a writer or reader than a book that is boring, flat, or unengaging.

Fortunately, Lisa Cron has created a book that uses psychology and science to get to the root of what makes for a successful and engaging story. You are shown the pitfalls that many writers fall into that lead to dull stories and how to avoid them. By the time you are done with Story Genius, you will understand how to write stories that are stimulating for the reader.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well: Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
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Most of the entries here are centered around the world of writing fiction. A mistake that is often made is assuming that nonfiction is the simple relaying of facts. On Writing Well is there to dispel that notion.

On Writing Well is there to teach that all writing can, and should, be interesting. This book teaches how to approach writing nonfiction from a personal view. It will also teach you how to reduce clutter in your writing to write clearly while also teaching you to use tools such as a thesaurus to give your work impact.

The book opens with a fantastic contrast of different styles and approaches to writing, if only to make a specific point: There is no real “right” way to be a writer. There is no “right” process. There are merely principles, principles which are much easier to learn than most starting would think.

Between You & Me by Mary Norris

Alt text: Between You & Me by Mary Norris
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It is sometimes hard to admit that books focused on learning can be, for lack of a more polite word, boring. Fortunately, Between You & Me by Mary Norris (an editor at The New Yorker for over three decades) is anything but boring.

Her book will teach you everything that you are doing wrong when it comes to punctuation, hyphens, capitalization, spelling, and all of the other issues that you would normally rely on spellcheck for (and she'll make you laugh in the process). While it would be easy to say that these problems can be solved after the fact with software, wouldn't it be nice to get it right the first time?

The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need by Susan Thurman

The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment by Susan Thurman
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Sometimes what you need is a book that covers your basics. That is this book. It's not locked onto one genre and can be used equally well for everything, from essay writing to term papers to news articles and press releases. Focusing on grammatically correct and concise writing, this book pulls you through a plethora of elements of writing.

Knowing how to start a writing project, how to write clearly and directly, and even how to be correct are all writing skills this book can teach you quickly. This book has everything that you need if you are just getting started or if you are a seasoned professional.

What these books for writing skills won't do

It is undeniable that these books are a great resource for developing your skills. However, writing is a bit like putting on muscle mass. You can know all the right things to do, but you will not develop unless you are actually doing it.

All of the knowledge that is contained in these books is worthless if you are not putting it to use. Take exercises and prompts from them and put them to good use. You will find that they challenge you and push you to be better than you thought you could be.

Conclusion on the best books to improve writing skills

When you decide to become a writer, it does not take much. All you have to do is write. Becoming a “good writer” is a subjective journey because there is no universal standard for it. 

Like any other form of art, it will ultimately rely on a myriad of factors determining its quality. The most important thing is that you become the best version of the writer you wish to become.

Being happy with your writing work is a journey in and of itself that you will embark on throughout the whole of your writing life days. 

The best way to unlock that potential is to master as many of the tools of the trade as you can. Having people who have decades worth of experience writing in the form of guides for those that come after (such as yourself) is a help art forms rely on.

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