What Good Writers Do—Best Book in This Category

To be a good writer, you must be able to select the best words, craft sentences, and build paragraphs. This is more than a matter of knowing the rules of punctuation and having a strong vocabulary.

I’ve read and benefited from dozens of books on writing. For comprehensive coverage at the best value, there’s one book that outstrips them all: The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing, by Thomas S. Kane.

Chapters are concise and organized into clear explanations, examples of specific principles, and suggestions for individual practice. The exposition is crystal clear. There are six chapters on “The Expository Paragraph,” six chapters on “The Sentence,” with emphasis on what makes for a well-written sentence, and six chapters on “Diction” that clarify the different purposes that words can serve. Kane explains the art of using words to achieve specific goals. Other chapters address broader issues, and a final section reviews punctuation. The treatment of punctuation stresses the differences that choices in punctuation can make.

This guide is peppered with pleasing quotes from exceptional wordsmiths, some familiar, some not.

The arrangement of topics is from general to particular. Understand, first, the possibilities and pleasures of writing and the kinds of writing and how they differ. Know how to pick topics and plan your writing. Master the basic structure of any essay. Move on to paragraphs, then sentences, then words, in that order.

This is a book you can read. It’s also a handy reference tool. Its special virtue is its power to convince aspiring writers that they can write and seasoned authors that they can improve.

From Amazon:

From “That Bookstore in Portland”:

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

3 Responses to What Good Writers Do—Best Book in This Category

  1. Ross Parker says:

    Dr. Geivett,

    You know, I’ve heard about these libraries :-), but the experience of reading from a library book is not REALLY reading a book for me. I need to be able to underline, write in the margin, make an index in the back of the book, and be able to go back and re-read the particularly interesting parts.

    Now libraries are great for fiction, where I do much less marking up the book.


  2. Doug Geivett says:

    Hey Ross,

    Don’t forget there are still libraries around.


  3. Ross Parker says:

    Dr. Geivett,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I should be getting some book money for my birthday that’s coming up this weekend, and this book is at the top of my list! (The Amazon price is very reasonable).

    Ahh, the life of a poor seminarian; I’m only able to buy books when I get money specifically designated for “non-budget spending”. Hopefully when I’m done with my education I’ll be a outrageously rich professor or pastor!

    Wait a second, I hear someone reminding my (it sounds like my wife) that neither of those vocations are going to make me rich… Well, I guess I’ll just have to live by Erasmus’ dictum, “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”


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