Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Write Anything by Laura Brown

A practical guide to everything you’ll ever need to write—at work, at school, and in your personal life.

With more than two hundred how-to entries and easy-to-use models organized into three comprehensive sections on work, school, and personal life, How to Write Anything covers a wide range of topics that make it an essential guide for the whole family. You want your boss to fund a special project. How can you write a persuasive email that will win his approval? It's time to apply to college. How can you write an essay that will stand out? The mother of one of your co-workers has died. What's the best way to express your condolences?

Grounded in a common-sense approach, friendly and supportive, How to Write Anything is Internet-savvy, with advice throughout about choosing the most appropriate medium for your message: e-mail or pen and paper. At once a how-to, a reference book, and a pioneering guide for writing in a changing world, this is the only writing resource you'll ever need.

My thoughts: This book is comprehensive in scope yet detailed enough for the reader to copy the format and use for taking notes, writing a letter to a child's teacher, writing an apology, a college or scholarship application essay, a business meeting agenda, and way more than I can even begin to list. The instructions include Do's and Don'ts and a great collection of samples. Anything includes so many different categories that it might seem overwhelming except that much of it is so common during a lifetime, nearly everybody could use it.

Given the information provided, I probably could have extrapolated from the book and written what I needed at the time I got the book; a business proposal. It may be included but is under a different heading or it could be hidden under the Business heading under another subheading. I did end up having to go to the internet. Regardless, my proposal was accepted. So, Yay!

Because this is a book blog, I am including a section on How to Write a Book Review. Turns out I've done a fair job with writing book reviews having started a book blog not knowing how to write a book review. As a rule, I've followed the lessons I've learned as an educator - write a positive, if I didn't like the book, write the specific negative, end with a positive, give credit where the book was well written just unappreciated by me, and always remember that the author is a person and their books are their offspring. Never trash a book. Also, keep book reviews short. Ah, there's my folly. 

Here's the excerpt: 

The Do's and Don'ts of Writing a Book Review
By Laura Brown,
Author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide
Book reviewing used to the purview of the elite. Now, thanks to the Internet, everyone's a critic. Your online book reviews can make a real difference: people almost always scan the reviews of a book before they make a purchase decision, and your insights can be a big help.
We're all familiar with the rant review -- the one that either adores or despises the book. Writing a balanced review is more difficult, but it's also more helpful to your fellow readers. As you brainstorm, think from your readers' point of view. What information would be most useful to them? What do you wish you had known about this book before you read it?
These dos and don'ts can help:
  • Include some description of the book as well as your opinion. Put the book in context.
  • Be specific. Say why you liked or disliked the book. Throwing around adjectives like "terrific" or "disappointing" doesn't really tell the reader anything about the book. What exactly what terrific? What was disappointing?
  • Consider the projected audience for the book. Was it written for a specialist audience? A general reader? What kind of reader would get the most from this book?
  • Take a stand. The ultimate point of a book review is to make a recommendation. Your verdict doesn't have to be an absolute yes or an absolute no. Offering a nuanced opinion of a book often makes a more interesting review.
  • Give your review a title that reflects the content of the review. Don't just use the book's title as the title of your review.
  • Don't go on too long. Unless you're writing for the New York Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement, your readers are probably not looking for an article-length review. Online book reviews should be brief and concise.
  • Don't fall into the trap of summarizing the book. Provide just enough summary so that your points are clear to your readers.
  • Don't trash the book because it wasn't what you expected. Unless the book was misrepresented, it's your responsibility to understand what you're buying before you buy it. Trout Fishing in America isn't really about trout fishing, and Fear of Flying is not for nervous travelers.
  • Don't spoil it. If you're reviewing a work of fiction, don't give away key plot points or the ending of the story.
  • Don't be nasty. If you didn't enjoy the book, don't be insulting or snide. Let your reader know calmly and unemotionally why you were disappointed.
  • Don't give the book a bad review if you're really mad about something else. If you bought the book online and experienced bad customer service, don't take it out on the poor author with a one-star review and a rant about shipping delays.
In this new, more democratized world of book reviewing, you have a big responsibility -- both to authors and to your fellow readers. Book reviewing online can be loads of fun, and if you provide really useful insights, you might even develop a following as a reviewer!
© 2014 Laura Brown, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide

Laura Brown, PhD, 
author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide, has taught writing to just about everyone -- from corporate executives to high school students. Her expertise encompasses instructor-led training, individual coaching, classroom teaching, and e-learning development. She has more than twenty-five years' experience providing training and coaching in business writing, and she has also taught composition and literature at Columbia University. She lives in New York.
For more information please visit and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter

No comments: