As you transition from college to work, your single best career advantage is strong business writing.
Jason Fried, the CEO of 37 Signals, states in his best-selling business book, Rework:
Always hire the better writer, whether the position is sales, engineering, technology, or anything else. Good writers understand what is important. They know what to omit. They can convey information and ideas. Always hire the better writer.
Here is a comprehensive list of business writing resources to help you in your business writing and communications courses while in college, but especially when you launch your career.
Best Business Writing Online Tools
To Plan Work Documents
- Freemind: Create concept maps to plan your documents and depict complex ideas. You boss will be impressed with your clarity of thought, and you'll better organize complex documents.
Manage Information Overload
- Evernote: Save photos, videos, documents, web pages, or audio files easily. Retrieve the information readily when needed. Better manage the deluge of information you will need to review, filter, save, and retrieve. Your boss will be amazed at your organization and memory.
- Rapportive: Discover job function, location, and social media links immediately right in the email.
- Hubspot Sales: Reports on who has opened and clicked on your emails.
- Gmail Canned Responses: Save time sending repetitive emails.
- Unsuck It: Business writing is notorious for jargon. This tool will flag jargon for you.
- Hemingway App: Cut the bloat. Business writing needs to be concise. This tool will identify unneeded words and complexity.
- The Writer's Diet: Is your writing fit or flabby? This tool will diagnose.
- Tone Analyzer: Assesses the warmth of your writing.
- Dictionary.com: An easy-to-access dictionary
- Thesaurus.com: A broad database of word choices
- AP Style Book: Requires a subscription, but this is the most accepted business writing style guide. Most likely, your employer will provide access.
Best Business Writing Books
Many business writing books are meh, and some are good. One problem with a book specifically devoted to business writing is that business writing is comprised of different elements of general writing. A specific business writing book can be formulaic and reductive. “Use this model” doesn’t work well when the information that goes into that model changes and requires discernment.
These books represent the best of the various elements that comprise good business writing.
Writing in General
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser: This book is the classic guide on effective non-fiction writing. If you read only one book to prepare for writing in business, choose this one.
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White: This little book has been the bible of style for over 50 years for a good reason. Be sure to read a later version that is edited by E.B. White, also, as it’s more comprehensive than William Strunk’s first edition.
- Why Business People Speak Like Idiots by Brian Fugere: Sadly, business writing is full of bloat and meaningless buzzwords and jargon. After reading this book, you won't fall into that trap.
- It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande: Strong sentences build strong documents. This book beautifully deconstructs clear sentences. And, it's funny.
- Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss: This clever, best-seller illustrates why punctuation matters.
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The Must-Read and Must-Use List
If time is limited, here is what every student of business writing needs to use or read: