To boost the professionalism of your business messages, there’s nothing better than enrolling in a high quality workshop or seminar. But what do you do later on to hone those newly acquired skills? Easy! Turn to the bookshelf. You’ll find superb resources that reinforce valuable lessons about effective oral and written communication. Here are top picks—authoritative works that motivate, educate and entertain.
1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Filled with relevant advice, this slim volume is the one of the oldest, shortest and most eloquent books on writing. Follow Strunk and White’s straightforward advice and you’ll never go wrong. 1) Omit needless words. 2) Observe grammar rules. 2) Write active, concise sentences. 4) Don’t confuse similar words. 5) Have a plan and stick to it. Crisp, stimulating and eternally relevant, the book is one you’ll want to reread and give to friends.
2. The Gregg Reference Manual by William A. Sabin
In this comprehensive yet manageable guide, Sabin clarifies the basic rules for all writing as well as the puzzling fine points. Lucid essays in the preface tackle gray areas like capitalization and comma use. In three sections (Grammar, Document Techniques and Formats, and References), clear explanations are amply bolstered by examples and models. Readers can find solutions for virtually every writing problem. Adding to its usefulness is a numbered index that makes every piece of information easy to find.
3. Guide to Managerial Communication by Mary Munter
An introductory chapter about strategies for communication lays the groundwork for Mary Munter’s guide to effective business writing and speaking. In it she emphasizes the strategic role of five variables: communicator, audience, message, channel and culture. Remaining chapters are divided equally between written and oral communication. Making good use of charts to sort and chunk information, Munter illustrates how to tackle processes such as writing in groups, editing in stages, designing visuals aids, and choosing a suitable presentation style.
4. Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner
Sensible, amusing and contemporary, the book is billed as “the grammarphobe’s guide to better English in plain English.” With chapter titles like “Comma Sutra” and “Verbal Abuse,” O’Conner has found the way to untangle knotty issues without using a lot of jargon. If you’re eager to know about clichés to avoid (like “cutting edge” or “few and far between”), words that don’t mean what most people think (like “decimate” and “eclectic”), and tricks for deciding between common pairs (like “who” and “whom”), you’re sure to value and enjoy O’Conner’s take on grammar.
5. Business Writing: What Works, What Won’t by Wilma Davidson
This primer for job writing is a practical tool for upgrading business messages. Special features: advice for overcoming writer’s block, cartoons driving home the point that ambiguous language creates havoc, and an appendix containing a wide range of sample documents. Unlike other dispensers of writing advice, Davidson encourages using an appropriate dose of humor.
6. Dictionary of Confusing Words and Meanings by Adrian Room
This highly readable reference is devoted exclusively to confused words – more than 3000 entries. The author distinguishes between those with similar sounds like “discomfit” and “discomfort” or “tortuous” and “torturous” as well as between dissimilar yet related words such as “gnat” and “mosquito” or “i.e.”. and “e.g.” Elucidating!
7. There Is No Zoo in Zoology and other beastly mispronunciations
by Charles Harrington Elster
Here are 400+ words commonly mis- pronounced even by the highly educated. You may be surprised to find that “forte” has only one syllable, that “harass” can be accented on either syllable, or that “victuals” is pronounced “vittles,” unrelated to its spelling! The book instructs and delights readers—whether expert communicators or simply lovers of the language.