How to improve my writing skills?
August 27, 2018 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I work as an actuary for a major life insurer. My work involves a lot of writing reports that involve technical details that will be read by audiences who are less familiar with the material I'm writing about than I am. I'd like to try to improve my ability to write business reports more clearly. Wondering if anyone can recommend some books to help with this? Thanks.
posted by Proginoskes to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It is a heavy read, but Richard Lanham's Analyzing Prose is a deep dive into the how and why of effective prose.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2018

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace is helpful and a quick read. I've also heard good things about Writing Without Bullshit.
posted by neushoorn at 8:27 AM on August 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kuiper, S. (2007). Contemporary business report writing. (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: Thompson Higher Education
posted by Little Dawn at 8:44 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

This PDF about plain language from the federal government is a good practical guide to clear business writing.
posted by mjcon at 9:24 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

John McPhee, Structure.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Here to second Joseph Williams' book (although the version I read was Style: Toward Clarity and Grace). I like it because it gives you the vocabulary to explain why a sentence (or paragraph, or larger unit) is unclear, and it gives you principles to transform unclear prose into clear prose.
posted by number9dream at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2018

The two books we were assigned in Creative Writing 101 (An Introduction to Non-Fiction, Journalism and Technical Writing) so many years ago was On Writing Well, by William Zinsser and the controversialThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and EB White.
posted by JamesBay at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2018

This isn't a book, but if your employer is willing to pay for Lynda membership or if you live near a library that provides it (like San Francisco/Denver/Los Angeles Public Library), they have a lot of great business writing courses that are really great.
posted by yueliang at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2018

I'll second Joseph M. Williams, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, whose condensed version was recommended by neushoorn. There are also textbook versions.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:53 PM on August 27, 2018

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