You don’t need me to tell you that your business writing should be as polished as possible if you want to avoid your potential customers being distracted by clumsy sentences, dodgy spelling, or a woolly message.
But few of us can craft a perfect piece of copy without some help with our writing, whether that’s catching typos and incorrect word usage, tidying up the language to make it clear and accessible for its intended readers, or making sure we’re writing the right content for our business.
Here are eight books that I think are excellent resources if you’re writing for your business, whatever its size. They are all on my shelf (except for They Ask, You Answer – my signed copy has mysteriously gone AWOL!)
The best guide to punctuation
If you’re stumped by apostrophes or not sure about comma placement, you’ll find this handy wee paperback invaluable. You’ll never add an apostrophe to a plural again once you’ve read this gem!
The Penguin Guide to Punctuation* by R L Trask is the simplest and clearest guide to UK punctuation style that I know. I recommend it to anyone who asks because it’s extremely user friendly and explains each point without overloading the reader.
The best guide to English grammar
Many of us who went through the UK education system in the 70s and 80s lack a good grounding in how our language is constructed. If you struggle with grammar then this is the single most useful book you could buy.
English Grammar in Use: A Self-Study Reference and Practice Book* by Raymond Murphy is written for those learning English as a second language. It’s clearly laid out with each grammar point explained on the left hand page and practice exercises on the right. It’s an excellent reference book, even if English is your first language.
The best guide to creating a house style
One of the easiest ways to make sure your writing is consistent across everything you produce is to create your own house style. This handy guide from the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading walks you through the details.
Your House Style: Styling your words for maximum impact outlines the value of a house style and helps you to create your own. It demonstrates the many points to consider – such as presentation of numbers, hyphenation and capitalisation – to avoid creating content that disappoints through inconsistent usage or presentation.
The best guide to tricky words
Troublesome Words* by Bill Bryson is a wonderfully accessible guide to those thorny word issues that many of us struggle with. If you can never remember whether affect or effect is the word you want, this is for you.
Be aware that you’ll dip into it to find out once and for all whether you should use imply or infer, and find yourself reading page after page of clear and humorous explanations long after you’ve forgotten why you picked it up in the first place!
The best guide to better business writing
Ann Handley is a content writing superstar who firmly believes that writing well now matters even more, as we all rely on our words to carry our marketing messages.
Everybody Writes* is a delight – it includes some grammar and usage guidance (for American English), how to connect with your audience through stories, best practice on creating amazing content, and the best tools you can use.
Written in Ann’s clear, engaging style, it’s the next best thing to listening to her talk!
The best guide to understanding content marketing
If you’re looking for a fresh approach to your marketing that puts solving your client’s problems at its heart, then They Ask, You Answer* by Marcus Sheridan is a must-read. In this book Marcus, one of the world’s leading experts on inbound marketing, explains how you can build trust with your potential clients through the magic of the right content.
Addressing their questions as honestly and as thoroughly as possible can attract many, many clients to your website, as long as your strategy puts your answers at the top of the search results. Here is the comprehensive answer to how to do exactly that.
The best guide to creating the right content
Content Fortress by Martin Huntbach and Lyndsay Cambridge is my go-to guide for writing content that will attract the right clients for me.
The book looks at the eight key pillars of content marketing in detail – everything from content about your processes and opinions to content that repels the clients that aren’t a good fit for you. It uses real-life case studies and gives plenty of practical advice that you can actually implement in your business.
Read this to understand how to create content that dramatically improves how you communicate with your customers, gets you better quality clients, and empowers your business.
The best guide to understanding your customers
If you want to really understand how your customer’s brain works when they’re thinking about buying from you, and how to use that understanding to create a solid customer experience for them, read this.
Hack the Buyer Brain by Kenda Macdonald is built on her extensive knowledge of psychology and is well-researched yet accessible and jargon-free. There are plenty of action points that you can act upon immediately to improve how you communicate with your customers throughout their journey and, as Kenda says, turn them into raving fans!
I hope you find at least one of these books will help you to improve your writing. I find myself referring to all of them regularly, just to make sure I’m on track, or to confirm that I’ve remembered something correctly. We can’t hold everything in our head – that’s why we have reference books. Knowing when and where to look things up is a powerful skill!
COMING SOON – The Editing Toolkit for Business
If you are looking for more support for your business writing, The Editing Toolkit for Business will be available in January 2022. To learn more about what it includes you can read How The Editing Toolkit can help your writing.
You can sign up to The Editor’s Note to get advance notice and an exclusive discount when the Toolkit is launched.
PS. Links with an asterisk are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase through them. I only ever feature books that I have read myself and can honestly recommend.