The problem with giving a book called Writing Tools as a gift is that its recipient assumes you think she’s a bad writer.
I do not think you’re a bad writer.
Over the years, I’ve purchased and given away probably ten copies of Writing Tools. It’s, by far, the best book on writing I’ve ever read—smarter, richer and more useful than even (GET READY FOR IT) The Elements of Style. Its author, Roy Peter Clark, teaches at the Poynter Institute, where both Matt and I used to work (and learn), and so I heard many of its lessons in person. But they come across so clearly and crisply in the book that it is almost—almost—a substitute for Roy himself.
A few things worth noting:
- This is a practical book. It’s not theory or fusty prescription. It’s a box of chewy ideas you can digest and put to use instantly.
- The ideas are so chewy, in fact, that many of them easily make the leap to other domains. The ladder of abstraction, for instance, isn’t only useful in writing; it’s a great way to build a presentation. (And as you’ll see if you click that link, the L.O.A., like many of the tools, isn’t Roy’s invention. He’s as much a curator as a coach in this book.)
- The tools apply across the board: from newspaper writing to fiction writing to blogging. Jeez probably even tweeting.
- Finally, the book is simply a great object. If you buy it, I implore you: buy the hardcover. The materials that Little, Brown chose for this thing are just perfect. It feels good in the hands; it feels like something you could use for years.
I bring it up now because Roy’s new book, The Glamour of Grammar, is out and newly reviewed in the NYT. There’s a Paper Cuts blog post as well, which I like even better because it brings Roy’s voice into the mix. I haven’t read the new book yet—but the old one is sitting here, right next to my keyboard, within arm’s reach.
P.S. I’m really only setting Writing Tools up against Strunk & White for effect, and to clearly communicate its insta-classic character. The truth, of course, is that the books are entirely complementary.