Monday, 11 October 2021

Seven texts for writing

I was recently asked by a colleague for some books to help them put together a course on creative writing. Luckily I have done a few MOOCs over the years, and have been lucky enough to get some great recommendations on books from some real experts. In addition, I have also found a few gems on my own.

However, the list I put together was not really for creative writing. It is really a useful list which will sharpen ANY writing. The books listed here will aid any aspirational academic, technical, informal or creative writer. 

So - drumroll please - in decreasing order of utility:

  1. New Hart's Rules: this book is fantastic, and full of esoterica. To be consulted whenever we don't know where to put that comma, or what the copyright page in a book is called. This has been called "The Printer's Bible". 
  2. Level Up Your Essays: another great piece of kit by Inger Mewburn. How to deliver academic work to meet the marker's requirements. Please, please: all students - READ THIS!
  3. The Elements of Style: A classic. William Strunk wrote this over a century ago, whereupon the great E. B. White picked up the baton and has revised it several times. It is a jewel. 
  4. Stylish Academic Writing: Kiwi Helen Sword's crisp and concise work on how to deliver academic writing crisply and concisely!
  5. On Writing:  Mr King's book has become - and remains - a classic in the field. He does a great job of sharing his writing philosophy, and how he feels about the writing itself.
  6. On writing well: About the philosophy of writing, and improving our own. It has been said that this book helps us to discover our own 'style', then provides us with the tools to polish it. 
  7. Bird by bird: this book is almost a writing self-help book. It helps us get into our own heads and confront what blocks us from doing it... while getting an intimate glimpse of the author's story of how to write.

I hope you find these as useful as I have!



  • King, S. (2000). On Writing: A memoir of the craft. Scribner. 
  • Lamott, A. (1995). Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life. Pantheon Books.
  • Mewburn, I., Firth, K., & Lehmann, S. (2021). Level Up Your Essays: How to get better grades at university. NewSouth Publishing. 
  • Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (2005). The Elements of Style (4th ed. Illustrated, Kalman, M.). The Penguin Press.
  • Sword, H. (2012). Stylish Academic Writing. Harvard University Press. 
  • Waddingham, A. (Ed.) (2014). New Hart's Rules: The Oxford style guide (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Zinsser, W. (2001). On writing well: The classic guide to writing nonfiction (25th anniversary edition). HarperResource.

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